As more players become adequately familiar with the dangers of reoccurring concussions, the NFL might soon have a much bigger problem on their hands.
By Israel Gonzalez
Concussions have become a much bigger problem than most people care to admit. But here we are. This can no longer be ignored. Not ever again.
Fans and media alike can no longer place a greater emphasis on enjoying a game over the dangers of playing said game.
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This is, as a whole, the most popular game in the United States, and arguably the most dangerous.
One could argue that boxing is more dangerous. It isn’t. While you are spending, for the most part, 12 rounds getting hit in the hand, it’s not like you are moving your head into the punch at the same speed in which that fist is moving towards your face.
Others could argue that MMA is more dangerous. It isn’t. At least not long-term. While people have died shortly after fights, it hasn’t happened often enough for it to be considered an epidemic.
Concussion problems in the NFL, though, is an epidemic. It’s that little elephant in the room, that’s not so little after all. It’s the problem that we are all thinking about, but that most choose to ignore. Let’s face it, if given the choice between watching football on Sundays or not watching it because you don’t want to see anyone go through concussion-like symptoms, which one will the majority choose?
It’s only football.
Why should we care or pretend to care about people who we have no emotional attachment (aside from rooting for them from an entertainment standpoint) to? But this, right here, is reckless and irresponsible. This is ignoring someone that has a drug and/or alcohol problem. This is not being there for someone who is showing suicidal tendencies. This is ignoring the fact that someone we admire is dying a slow death.
Imagine, for one second, this scenario.
Exhibit A, if you will. In one corner, you have a truck. In the other corner, there is a tank. The objective here is that both vehicles are going to reach their top speed and collide head first.
Now, imagine Exhibit B.
Same scenario, but with NFL players. How does this not end without one or both players ending up with a concussion? Honestly, those players have a better chance at surviving a couple of rounds playing Russian Roulette with a revolver than not ending up concussed on the sideline.
Which leads me to the upcoming movie starring Will Smith, “Concussion.” The premise of the movie is that Smith, playing Dr. Bennet Omalu (historically, a real person), examines the brains of recently deceased NFL players, and determines that they died due to repeated blows to the head. He was also the first to publish anything about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
To make a long story short, Dr. Omalu received plenty of backlash from the NFL over his findings. He was often discredited. This trend continues now in the form of movie-goers and critics. The film holds a rating of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Again, do we love the NFL more, than we care about the health of the players?
As far as the players go, most, if not all, know about concussions, but don’t understand how serious it is. New York Jets star left tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, was one of those players. Not any longer. Ferguson recently wrote an article for Sports Illustrated. In it, he reflects on what he has learned.
“I was astounded by what I learned regarding the NFL and its apparent denial of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery of the link between brain injury, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and professional football players,” said Ferguson.
That’s the thing, though. This is that dirty little secret that can crush the very foundation of a sport built on, for lack of a better word, violence. Concerning players, they fall on two different ends of the spectrum. They are either completely ignorant or feign ignorance. Ferguson was in the former group.
“Perhaps I was a little naïve in my understanding of how the brain is affected by hits to the head,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson has nothing to feel bad about, though. After all, it’s not like players are being brought up to speed about the dangers of concussions. Is there anything currently in place to teach players about concussions? Are concussions a big deal to those in power? I will never accuse anyone of negligence regarding the dangers with concussions, but it’s hard to simply ignore the fact that not enough is getting done.
Is enough getting done? Ferguson doesn’t seem to think so.
“After learning all of this, I feel a bit betrayed by the people or committees put in place by the league who did not have my best interests at heart,” said Ferguson.
The NFL has a problem on their hands. If “Concussion” makes a ton of money at the box office, more people are going to become aware of how the league handled the problem in the past. But perhaps something is even more damning to the NFL. Something worse than people going to see the movie. What if players refuse to see the movie because they feel as though they have a front row seat to the real thing?
Richard Sherman, a highly respected player for the Seattle Seahawks, is one player who isn’t going to watch the film.
Sherman on if he’s seen Concussion movie: “I have not. I see a concussion movie every Sunday for free. I don’t need to go to the theater.”
— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) December 30, 2015
The battle between the NFL and the concussion epidemic has been ongoing for years, and will continue to be fought both on and off the field.
This is one battle that the NFL cannot win.