Concussions are, in simple terms, brain traumas which are caused by blows to the head. As well as, traumas caused by forces which cause the brain to impact the inside of the skull*. In my years of sport, I would estimate that I had between 5 and 7 concussions. My memory is fine, I don’t really have chronic headaches, I don’t normally fly into rages, but I do have depression and anxiety, which I cannot say is connected to the brain injuries I suffered as a young person. It is however, something that I worry about. Did I do this to myself? Should I have played another sport that didn’t allow me to use my head as a weapon against other athletes? I don’t have any good answers to those questions. I believe my participation in sport made me a better and more complete person in a lot of different ways. Though with that said, I was ready willing to go back into games after getting my bell rung and I never got paid nor was that something to which I aspired. I played injured because I didn’t want to let my teammates down. That I think is the crux of the problem.
The NFL has hit a crossroads where, player safety is, for the first time changing the rules of the game in a fundamental way. I personally dislike this change on a gut level, because apparently I love watching people be concussed. I also happen to share this love of head injuries with NFL players, and pretty much all other sports fans. This is why when the NFL begins to penalize and fine players for going against years of training and instinct, it rang as very intellectually dishonest and downright hypocritical to me. Wanting to try and create rules to govern the split second reactions during an incredibly fast game is one thing. Creating rules to stop players from doing something that gains them fame and fortune is another. Creating rules to stop players from doing something that can help his team win a football game is just silly. Dangerous hitting isn’t a discipline issue, it’s an issue of culture and an issue of practicality. The NFL is a league full of gigantic freak athletes who hit each other on every play of the game while travelling at high speeds, these gigantic freaks sadly do not have much difference between the way their skulls protect their brains and how normal people’s skulls protect their brains. This means that in a game when large powerful men are running into each other, many times with their heads, the reality is that these men are going to have long term injury to their brains. The NFL Owners who make massive sums of money from these men should at the very least medically covered them for life.
The NFL owners have eschewed safety in so many different ways, that these new in game changes seem like more of a publicity stunt to dodge liability than actual meaningful change. Between the NFL owners wanting to extend the season to 18 games, or the ludicrous thursday night football schedule where players must play with 3 days of rest and finally the blatant denial the league is in about performance enhancing drugs. The NFL owners are making insane sums of money and are taking the least possible amount of responsibility for the welfare of their players. Until recently the NFL had no problem glamourizing the biggest hits of the week, and sportscasters had no problem making jokes about it. They did nothing to get out in front of the concussion issue until rumblings of retired players suing the league for medical expenses hit the mainstream media. They prematurely lost players like Troy Aikman and Steve Young during the 90’s and didn’t move on the concussion issue. This is on the owners because they have created the culture.
The NFL owners and the players have agreed to huge broad reaching contracts on a bunch of different occasions. Why is it so crazy that retired NFL players should negotiate to receive medical care for the injuries they have suffered from making the franchise owners ungodly sums of money? Why can’t the owners be human for a second and say, “we made a lot of money from the efforts and talents of our players, past and present. Some of these players were injured, for life, because they and we didn’t know any better. Lets help these former employees at least be able to seek medical treatment.”