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Friday, November 12, 2010

Concussion Hypocrisy

DeSean Jackson returned to the field last week wearing a new helmet made by Schutt. Jackson was returning to action after suffering a concussion 3 weeks prior.

The obvious question to me is, why the hell isn’t the entire league wearing this helmet?

Roger Goodell has been prattling on about how the league is concerned about player safety since he took over the job of commissioner. The NFL Players Association will be making noise about preventing concussions in the upcoming negotiations for the new collective bargaining agreement.

Yet, it’s clearly nothing more than a lot of posturing in an effort to make progress in decreasing or increasing (respectively) the salaries of players.

This week I read a column by Bob Ford that mentioned the number of e-mails he receives whenever he writes about the concussion issue from fans saying that they don’t care about the subject. Yet, I think it’s soon going to be the only issue in the NFL.

I’ll admit that I have a personal angle on this issue that most people don’t have. I watched my father suffer with dementia in his late 40s and early 50s. The man had one concussion in his life, and was reduced to needing the same assistance a very small child would need before passing away at the age of 55.

When he was first diagnosed, more than 15 years ago, my mom was blown off by doctors when she asked if the concussion he had about 18 years prior to the diagnosis was a factor. To be fair, there was a family history issue. Yet, today, there’s essentially no doubt that the concussion was a factor.

The people in the media like local reporter Tim McManus, Mike Golic, and others, along with the multitude of fans, who are blathering about how concussions are part of the game are simply wrong. They are ignorant to what this is doing to the guys playing the game and the families left to care for them. They sound like children fearful that their favorite toy will be taken away.

Even if it’s true that guys have always gotten concussions playing football, it’s irrelevant. So what? We now know the damage it creates. The argument is essentially saying, “It’s always been that way, so leave it alone.” The logic doesn’t work. In fact, that argument is devoid of logic.

The myth that players know what they’re getting into is almost as laughable. These guys started playing football by the age of 8 or 9. By high school, at least, they’ve been indoctrinated into the concept that they will not only be making a living playing the game they love, but that it will be a living that most only dream of having.

But I’m sure they sit down and evaluate the potentially devastating health risks of playing at higher levels when they are young teens.

It’s almost as ridiculous as the notion that helmet-to-helmet hits are simply part of the game and impossible to eliminate. In the very first week of the NFL instituting more severe penalties for illegal helmet-to-helmet hits there were virtually none.

Obviously, the problem wasn’t eliminated in one week, and there will be a transition for players – and officials. But just as obvious was the fact that the players can adapt, and, in fact, do it quickly.

Finally, it’s laughable to hear guys like Golic and others talk about the problem as if it’s a “class” issue with defenders being mistreated in the transition. The nature of the game is that defenders are the ones who essentially deliver the hits. Dealing with the issue means that they are the ones who need to make the biggest change. It’s just called reality.

My guess is that football will, in fact, become extinct if the issue isn’t dealt with. I don’t think anyone doubts that concussions are on the rise due to the size and speed of today’s athlete. As the connection between concussions and dementia become clearer, and there seems to be little doubt that it will strengthen, tolerance for a sport that is regularly sending its players off the field with concussions will decline.

I love watching football as much as anyone. But as this issue has become more prevalent, it gets harder and harder to watch a sport for entertainment knowing that the hits these guys are taking are going to affect them for the rest of their lives. When the evidence continues to mount, there’s little question that so too will pressure from community groups to stop having football in schools and on television. The base of the sport’s popularity and future players will disappear.

Besides, as more and more of our favorite players are known to become incapacitated by middle age, I have to think – or hope – that even the stereotypical football fan will start to question what they’re watching.

Call me crazy if you must, but let’s go back to the original question. If Jackson is wearing a helmet that is shown to reduce concussions, why isn’t every player in the league wearing it? The answer, according to the article linked to above, is money. “Riddell is the official NFL helmet, but players can wear other approved models as long as the logo isn’t showing.”

In other words the league that’s making billions of dollars cares so much about their players that it refuses to eat the contract with Riddell. Odds are that the financial loss that the owners would feel by doing so equates to the pain of swatting a nat.

Worse, the NFLPA is allowing it to go on. Why aren’t they threatening to pull players off of the field if they don’t have the right helmets by the next game?

They have certainly done so over financial concerns.

Picks. No excuses, I stunk it up in the last couple of weeks, and I need some time to regroup. Follow me on Twitter for potential picks this week.

Week-in-Review:
• Antonio Margarito is a lowlife. He was caught on video mocking the trainer of his opponent, Manny Pacquiao, in an upcoming fight. The trainer, Freddie Roach, has Parkinson’s disease.

• When did Michael Vick become Joe Montana? Suddenly the topic on sports talk radio is that the Eagles should be begging him to re-sign right now. I agree he’s playing very well, but there’s no reason to commit to him immediately.

• I thought I would be able to link to it by now, but unfortunately, I cannot find the article online. Regardless, if you haven’t read the Point After in the November 8 Sports Illustrated it is worth finding a copy of the article to read. A high school cheerleader was kicked off the squad because she refused to cheer for a boy that was charged with sexually assaulting her. And we wonder why society is messed up.

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