Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this right now, you’re probably a male sports fan. And that means you’ve probably spent a substantial amount of time on YouTube watching football players get absolutely destroyed. There’s like eleventy million clips of “HARDEST HIT EVER” on there, and 90% of them are spectacular.
Another substantial amount of them - and the overlap’s heavy here - involve head injuries. Concussions, to be precise. And while some University of Kentucky scientists were wasting time by watching clips of fellow Wildcat Myron Pryor knock a Georgia receiver into the next decade, they decided to turn the activity into an experiment - one that actually proved fruitful.
Per the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, researchers noticed that many of the concussed athletes, shall we say, acted like different athletes immediately after the hit:
[Researcher Jonathan] Lifshitz, a Ph.D working as an assistant professor in UK’s Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, said he caught one of his assistants, Ario Hosseini, on the video-sharing Web site.
Seeing a teachable moment, Lifshitz encouraged Hosseini and other staffers to see if they could see anything in common from the “knockout hits” they were viewing on YouTube that might help detect symptoms of concussions.
Once they really started looking, they did.
After watching some three dozen “knockout videos” on YouTube, Lifshitz, a 35-year-old father of three, and his team kept noticing that frequently just after the blow to the head there was an involuntary movement of an arm into a position similar to the en garde pose in fencing.
Here’s the hit in question, because we know you were aching to watch it:
You’ll notice the telltale reaction by Mario Raley, aside from wetting himself or however else you accuse concussion victims of being emasculated (we didn’t know excessive testosterone protected the brain in the event of concussive trauma). Researchers found it in a majority of the hits that they knew caused concussions. Moreover, they found it only among rats who were hit moderately hard, rather than just lightly (what the hell kind of sick bastard tackles rats?).
The practical application of this is clear: so ESPN’s talking meatheads don’t accidentally yell “JACKED UP!!!” when someone gets a head injury, because then it’s not okay to yell like a moron.
No, actually, the practical application is to more accurately diagnose a concussion quickly - and to help trainers keep somebody off the field if they want to go back in. It’s an easier telltale sign and a purely involuntary reaction, as opposed to trying to track someone’s pupils in the afternoon sun.
It’s not foolproof, of course, since not every victim behaves that way upon impact. But it’s good enough to help trainers limit both the immediate and lasting brain trauma that happens when someone’s bell gets rung - or cracked.