First let me start by saying, R.I.P. Junior Seau, you were a wonderful player and a great man. I would also like to say that I feel for any former player that has had to suffer through the effects of multiple concussions, old injuries and general pain, and crippling arthritis as well. I feel like I have to chime in on the concussion epidemic/ litigation/outcry, whatever it is that you classify it in your head. I am torn on the situation because it is just too hard for me to see how either side is any more or less guilty than the other. What I will do is explain how I feel from both perspectives.
Should the NFL be held liable for every concussion that every player has had? They should have to face some blame if they or anybody representing them has pushed or prodded or deceived a player into thinking that he is fine to play when he isn’t. Truth be told, that happens every day in football. I would think it happens as early as pee wee league. In football you are taught to play thru pain. Of course you may take a play or two off but you are getting back in the game. As a player, you are constantly chomping at the bit to play, you practice constantly so you can get a chance to play and to let a little bell ringer sideline you is crazy. As a coach, there is tremendous pressure to win, and how can you win if one of your best players is on the sideline suffering from the effects of a concussion? That’s why it should rest on the shoulders of the ultimate player involved, the league. The league should place more stringent guidelines on teams who put players at risk of head injuries. The league should also be as transparent as possible as to what information they have regarding any and all research done involving head injuries. I doubt this will happen because litigation is already in full swing and I think if they really let on to how much they know they will end up having to pay quite a bit of money to more than a few former players. The NFL makes money hand over fist and at the end of the day, it’s a business. If I get hurt at my place of employment there is a way to receive compensation for my injuries, this should also be available in the NFL. If they don’t want any part of that then they should just have each player that is ever on a team sign a waiver saying that they understand the risks of playing football and they are willing to take those risks and not hold anyone responsible other than themselves.
Come on, this is a very simple problem. From the time you start playing football you know that it’s a rough sport and if you play long enough you will get injured. Constantly running into people and throwing your body all over the place just isn’t the safest thing to do. I mean just by being in the league it should be understood that if you play, you are probably going to get a concussion or seven. Are you really going to hold the NFL responsible because you got hurt doing something that you knew was going to hurt you? At what point does a player to into account his own safety. At what point does a player think about what’s best for himself and his family and no matter what, just walk away from the game. I think about this sometimes due to the fact that I played basketball and football for several years. I can tell you now that I would have never played as hard as I did if I knew my body would hurt as much as it does now on some days. I’ve had multiple knee surgeries, broken fingers, and a degenerative disk in my back. All of these injuries happened due to sports. They all happened because for years that’s all I wanted to do was play. I wouldn’t listen to anyone and now I pay the price. At the same time, I can’t blame anyone for that but myself. I played in games that I could barely walk, but I wanted to win. That will always happen. Trust me, it will always happen as long as there are sports. The will to win is second to none in sports and will make people do things they normally would never think of doing and because of this, players, trainers, coaches, general managers and whoever else is involved with a team will always push themselves to the max to make this dream of winning come true. No matter what.
So what can be done? To me it seems extremely simple. Back in the 80’s there were two players in the league, Steve Wallace an OL for the 49ers and Steve Tasker, a special teams standout for the Bills who wore a protective shell over their helmets to protect against concussions. The thought was that it helped spread the kinetic energy released when someone got hit. It really seemed like it worked also. To my knowledge it worked well and they went on to have productive careers. Their helmets looked a little funny but who cares, they didn’t suffer any more concussions. I find it laughable that technology is so good nowadays that you can get the internet on your phone but football players are basically wearing the same helmets they’ve had since the 1980’s. Really, the only substantial advance in helmet technology we’ve seen over the last 30 years is the bottom of the helmet coming out more to protect against getting hit in the chin, and that only came out 4-5 years ago.