Except for that one thing that just won’t go away, the never-ending news about concussions. You only have to look at our own Browns to see the effect concussions can have on a team, as quarterback Colt McCoy and tight end Ben Watson both had last season cut short because of head injuries. And it could be argued that wide receiver Mohammad Massaquoi hasn’t been the same since James Harrison laid him out with a concussion two seasons ago. What if McCoy, Watson, or Massaquoi take a big hit to the head early next season? Are they done for the year? Are they done for their career?
Concussions are not just a football or NFL problem. As I write this article rookie sensation Kylie Irvine of the Cleveland Cavaliers has missed a string of games because of a concussion that happened in December. In the NHL hockey’s #1 superstar Sydney Crosby has not played, except for a few weeks, for over a full season because of a concussion he received. No one, including Crosby, has any idea when he will be back. He recently told the Canadian Press, “You have days when you feel like you’re getting better and the symptoms aren’t quite as bad. Other days they’re a little worse.” More importantly, this year a record number of youth league, high school, and college players have missed games in a variety of sports because of concussions. And it is only going to get worse on all levels until it gets better.
This time concussions are not going away, it is affecting too many athletes on too many levels in too many sports, with football leading the way. Popular magazines and websites, as well as serious medical journals, are filled with articles about concussions and football. The mainstream media is also not going to let it go away, with daily newspapers such as the New York Times as well as the major news networks doing regular reports on concussions. If you got the time, go to Yahoo.com and read the article “End Game: Brain Trauma And The Future Of Youth Football In America” by Patrick Hruby, which was originally posted on February 13, 2012. Or go to nytimes.com and read any of the articles written by Allan Schwarz. Both Hruby and Schwarz are serious journalists looking at concussions and head injuries from a very realistic and pragmatic angle. For those of us who love football and have read their writings find the situation very scary.
The comment I keep hearing from people in the medical field who are now dealing with concussions is that football is in trouble. It cannot be ignored, and the more we hear about it the more serious the situation gets. Plus, in a very Watergate-ish slant to the story, stories are becoming public about how the NFL has ignored the situation for too long, that they knew for some time things about head injuries that are just now becoming public knowledge.
That is what the Duerson lawsuit is about. If you remember, Dave Duerson was a Notre Dame grad and former pro bowl safety with the Chicago Bears who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest last year. His last request was that his brain be studied to analyze the damage football left on it. His family is arguing not that concussions happened, but that information about the severity and long-term affects of concussions was withheld from him as a player so he would continue to play.
And this is not going to go away. This is the third time in the last five years I have written about concussions, and each time because the situation keeps becoming more and more serious.
Drastic things need to happen. To help prevent the long term pounding that linemen take on the head there is a push to outlaw the three and four point stances. Everyone on the field would start in a two-point stance. Many offensive linemen do this already, especially in obvious pass situations. This would keep many linemen from attacking their opponents’ head first, with the top of their helmet taking the first blow.
One thing that is going to happen very soon, and is happening already with some players, is to track concussions over the length of a complete playing career, from the first time a kid puts pads on in CYO or Pop Warner all the way through the pro leagues, including the NFL, the Arena League, the Canadian League, and all of the semi-pro and amateur adult tackle leagues across the country. It would also track any head injuries playing any other sport also.
Something that is going to happen, and there will be a fight over who decides what, is going to be a limit on the amount of concussions a player can have over a certain amount of time, or over the course of their career. Players like Troy Palamalu can’t keep coming back week after week after suffering head injuries. And if a player has to hang it up after so many concussions, so be it. That has already happened on the high school and college level, and if the NFL really cares about the long-range health of its players it has to happen on that level too.
On a lighter note…If you are looking for a football fix in the middle of the offseason think about attending the 2012 Ohio Army National Guard Senior Bowl III, presented by the Ohio Army National Guard and OhioCollegeFootball.com. The game is scheduled for April 14, 2012 in Columbus’ Crew Stadium in Columbus. Kick-off is slated for 1:00 p.m.
The game is unique because it gives players from all levels of college football in Ohio to play with and against each other. There will be players from all the DI schools, as well as almost every DII, DIII, and NAIA school. If gives those players who played in the Ohio Athletic Conference and the North Coast Conference to compete with players from the Big Ten, the Big East, and the Mid American Conference. For some of the players it is their last chance to play in a game, for others it’s the last chance to be seen by scouts.
Tickets are now on sale at the Crew Stadium Box Office, all Central Ohio Ticketmaster retail locations, and by phone at 1-800-745-3000. Fans can also purchase tickets online at www.TicketMaster.com. All tickets are general admission and are $12.00 presale and $15.00 the day of the game. Children under 2-years of age are free.