The concussion issue in football isn’t going anyway any time soon. If anything, it’s only gotten louder as players weigh the decision to subject their bodies and (minds) to potential longterm harm, and as studies continue to roll in. But people are coming down on both sides of the debate anyway, and will continue to do so for as long as there’s a link between CTE and the NFL.
Last weekend in support of a Courtyard event where the hotel chain will be transforming a stadium suite at the Super Bowl into a hotel room and letting a contest winner stay the night before the game, UPROXX spent some time with former NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and discussed everything from the play of San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey to the Rams’ move to Los Angeles. But one answer was a bit bombastic – Faulk’s opinion on concussions.
“Concussions, it’s a part of the job,” Faulk said. “If you don’t want a concussion, don’t play football.”
That’s oversimplification at its finest, but there’s some truth to it, and former players seem to be the ones most often saying this. At least in today’s game there’s an inherent risk you take on when you play the game at the highest level. Now that we know football and concussions are linked, much like with smoking and the Surgeon General’s Warning, you implicitly opt into those risks when you keep on playing. The data is there, and it’s public. Players often say they’d do it again if given the chance, while others have left the game in their prime to protect their bodies and brains.
Where it gets dicey is with former players, especially the old-timers. Those guys didn’t have the scientific studies we have now when they were playing, and they’re the ones who are increasingly seeing debilitating issues with their memory, their cognitive functions, and their behavior. While it’s always been known that football is a dangerous sport, those guys didn’t have the research we have, or the emphasis in rules (and elsewhere) on player safety. And it’s not just linebackers with long careers who were at risk. Even one year in the league was enough to suffer the subconcussive blows that could permanently affect the brain.
Giving better health care to those players, as well as a reform of benefits extended to more former players (and not just guys who have earned their tenure) would be a start. And transparency would go a long way as well. The NFL can fight the stigma of concussions, but Pandora’s Box has been opened somewhat here. Might as well stop being the unfeeling conglomocorp and actually show some humanity.
No matter how vocally players say they’re fine taking on the risk, you can’t have an alumni base in the sport losing their minds to the sport. If that’s the case, football won’t make it too far into the future. By protecting and taking care of players (current and former), the NFL would in turn be protecting the viability of the game.