Russell DePersia – “Season’s Change.”Entertainment, Sports — By Buddy Sampson on March 8, 2014 at 8:16 pm
One Hit Can Change Everything
By Buddy Sampson
Sports, particularly violent contact sports such as football and boxing, can cause career-ending injuries to the players that participate. Violent sports, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) being a prime example, are big cash cows for sports franchises, colleges and event promoters. Some sports leagues like the National Football League (NFL) have developed new protocols for head injuries such as concussions. However, those protocols often don’t address the implications of a career-ending injury.
These issues are brought into the spotlight in a dynamic film by Russell DePersia called “Seasons Change,” a feature that brings truth to the phrase “One Hit Can Change Everything.” Why make a film on this subject? “It came from different areas,” said Russell DePersia, a former boxer and offensive end, who once worked out for The Dallas Cowboys. “I saw other players who have taken shots through the years, in football and in boxing. A lot of it is my own experience, not direct in my own life, but being on the field. I’ve seen others go through that process, so I can relate.” DePersia hopes the film will raise awareness for those who suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. As many as 3.8 million people in the United States suffer sports and recreation concussions each year. The Sports Concussion Institute estimates that 10 percent of athletes in contact sports suffer a concussion each season. For young people between 15 to 24 years old, sports are the second largest cause of traumatic brain injury.
“Seasons Change” chronicles the life of fictional character Rex Sarcone, a jock who aspires to become a professional football player, who has an almost perfect world; great grades, a good mentor and a future that looks bright. Suddenly, that world is taken away, and, without a solid Plan B, how will Rex prosper? “It seems to me that on all levels, high school, college, pros, that everyone’s got to get educated, from coaches, parents, all the way through, because they’re not seeing what’s happening out there, ” said DePersia on the danger of a career-ending injury in sports and having a firm contingency plan if something like that occurs. “From playing ball myself, you can see how dangerous one hit can be. A guy can go in a boxing match, just one fight and come out a different person.”
DePersia attended Rutgers University, graduating from its School of Law. He played basketball as a shooting guard and was a boxer while studying law. Currently, DePersia is a successful criminal defense attorney in New Jersey and is hoping to make a difference, particularly with his film. DePersia emphasizes that multiple hits that players experience over time have a cumulative effect that can cause life-threatening injuries, such as brain damage.
“If you get multiple shots over time, the brain just can’t take all that,” he said. “If you add it up over a twelve-year career, say if they get two nasty hits in a season, you have twenty-four nasty hits and the damage is done.” When asked about what a league can do about this potentially huge issue for football, DePersia said, “Athletes are bigger, stronger and faster, so as a result, if you have a 250 or 300 pound athlete running at full speed on the gridiron, the collisions are explosive. One of my main goals is to bring awareness of these issues to the sports world on all levels. I love the game of football and want to protect this great American game. In order to protect the game, we must protect the players. I hope I can increase the awareness out there, so that the medical experts, the equipment designers, the football analysts and the team leaders can put their energies and resources together to really address the head injuries. It is not an easy answer, but I know in my heart that “Seasons Change” will move the ball down the field.”
Russell’s view on the value of sports in a person’s life is old school, yet refreshing. “Sports should be something that makes an individual person grow, so you can learn about challenges and dedication to make you a better person and incorporate that in your life,” said DePersia, who has two children. “We’ve gotten away from that, and many times, sports are the be all, end all. The focus is wrong. Parents, teachers and students have to see sports as a vehicle of learning and not put the emphasis solely on wins and losses.” DePersia hopes that “Seasons Change” will bring awareness to the crucial issue of career-ending injuries and give the public thought and insight into a very important issue. Hopefully, sports franchises, colleges, parents, students and potential professional athletes take heed of the important message in DePersia’s upcoming film.