Why won’t the NCAA allow Omega-3 as a “permissible supplement” for Athletes when well documented studies prove that by adding this simple nutrient to the college athlete’s diet or nutrition program could significantly reduce the long term effect of those athletes at risk of Traumatic Brain Incidents?
Omega-3 is approved for use in infant formula throughout the world and are used by a range of professional sports leagues, including the NFL, NHL NBA, MLB, and even youth sports programs like Pop Warner to help support repair and recovery, as well as athletic performance and resilience – but the NCAA still prevents college football players from taking Omega-3.
As a former college football player at Texas Tech who suffered concussions and endured thousands of blows to the head, I believe that all college athletes deserve free access to this essential nutrient, especially when 100’s of scientific studies have proven that Omega-3, (DHA and EPA) help with TBI’s.
Like millions of kids I started my football career at the tender age of 7 years old. Football was a game I loved more than any other sport I participated in. I loved the game for its physical challenges, the life lessons it taught me and being a part of a team or something bigger than myself.
My athletic career spanned 20+ years from little league, through high school, D-1 college level, NFL with the Denver Broncos in 1993 and even a short stent in Arena Football.
Starting in Pop Warner football, we never thought twice about “Getting our Bell Rung”. That’s what we called (and still do today) for hitting or being hit so hard you literally heard bells ringing in your head. Throughout my playing career I can remember the many times that I couldn’t remember!
Just recently at a Texas Tech former players’ association event I was speaking to a former teammate who said, “Matt, you know I hardly remember much at all about my playing days in college”. I told him I felt the same way and we laughed for a while trying to remember things from our past glory.
Back then we never thought about the long term effects on our brains while we were playing the game we loved. There was very little awareness about concussions, TBI’s and the long term effects that we have seen in former athletes involved in contact sports of all kinds. We now have concussion protocols in all major sports and ongoing research into the prevention of these TBI’s.
Those preventative measures have come in many forms such as new rules on contact the use of the head in tackles, new helmets that reduce the impact of collisions, and products like Omega-3 fatty acids that are a key nutrient in the neurological development of the human brain and neurological system.
One way to keep Omega-3 levels high is a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, found primarily in seafood, specifically fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna. But research consistently shows that Americans are not meeting the recommended Omega-3 levels through their diet alone, not to mention college athletes.
There is no doubt that I suffered from several mild to moderate concussions during my many years of playing competitive football. Had I been made aware of the potential long term effects that repeated head to head contact was potentially having on my brain and I had access to Omega-3 supplementation I would have taken it.
Why isn’t the NCAA isn’t doing enough to help protect the long-term brain health of children? With over 300,000 kids —age 19 or younger—estimated to be treated in U.S. emergency departments annually for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or TBI, it is clear that maintaining appropriate levels of Omega-3 fatty acids is critical to protect their long-term health and brain function.
New research out of Texas Christian University (TCU) that was just presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference. The research revealed that NCAA football players, who are at a high risk for Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), are almost always deficient in Omega-3 and that the appropriate levels of DHA supplementation could help protect their brains against the effects of repeated sub-concussive impacts, often endured in a single game and throughout the season.
And other scientists have concluded in their research that these fatty acids have the ability to improve brain cell membranes fluidity and memory and reduce structural injuries to the brain.
The NCCA’s reasons for not allowing these products to be provided are athletes because of possible fish contaminants or possible mercury poison makes no sense. Why would the NCAA, with all the data at their disposal, still remain so short sided in recognizing the benefits of Omeag-3 products being made available to these athletes? I certainly think it’s worth the effort to protect these athletes who are at risk every time they play.
– Matthew Wingo is a former football player for Texas Tech University and the Denver Broncos.