Treatment/roster size/long term insurance need to be improved, concussions are and will be a consequence of full contact sports, but they can’t change some rule retroactively to punish a defender and then still put a player back out on the field one or even two weeks later after he was knocked out. Players get more time out for sprains and contusions than concussions. Can’t lionize Steel Curtains, Bednarik, Butkus, Deacon Jones, Jack Tatum, etc and then poo-poo violence out of the sport. Here’s former Eagles Linebacker/Special Teamer Ike Reese:
“Anyway, he fumbled a punt return and I remember diving for the ball. He’s at the bottom of the pile. So I get the heel of my hand under his face mask and I’m bending the face mask. I’m really bending his neck back — and back. Everything is fair game on the ground and scrambling. He was their starting tailback. You have a chance to hurt him — put him out of there — you do it.”
Cue David “Deacon” Jones, NFL hall of fame defensive end and the person who coined the term “sack” speaking about his approach to defense:
You got this 265 pounds up to 4.5, you got an angle on him, he should go to the hospital and that’s exactly what I tried to do. No remorse in my heart I tried to put him in the hospital every time I tackled him.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is well behind the science on this topic:
But while these tragic tales resonate with fans, two people in a position to help have not come off as especially sympathetic. NFL Players Associationexecutive director Gene Upshaw told The Charlotte Observer last year that the brain-damaged old-timers didn’t pay his salary and “can complain about me all day long” for not championing their cause. Last Friday at his state of the league address, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed defensive when asked about Johnson. “I don’t accept the premise that [returning too early from concussions] was common practice,” Goodellsaid, “but it does concern me.”
It should. A 2001 survey by the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes looked at 2,552 retiredNFLplayers and found that 24% had sustained at least three concussions. Those who had were two to three times more likely to suffer from depression and three times as likely to have mild cognitive impairment, a precursor of Alzheimer’s disease.
Meanwhile, S.I.’s Peter King’s focus is finding a punishment that will prevent players from reckless helmet to helmet or “launch” tackling:
I will hand it to Rodney Harrison. In the year-and-a-half I’ve worked with him, he’s become more thoughtful about the game than I remember from his playing days, when his life was a seek-and-destroy mission. And Sunday, after watching a day of the viciousness, he laid it on the line on our Football Night in America show.
“You didn’t get my attention when you fined me five grand, 10 grand, 15 grand,” Harrison said. “You got my attention when I got suspended … You have to suspend these guys. These guys are making millions of dollars. The NFL [has to say], ‘We’re going to really protect our players. We’re going to suspend these guys, not one game, but possibly two or more games.’ ”
In addition to a change in the punishments levied for dirty hits, the now team doctors need to become “sideline doctors”. I would envison a sideline doctor being an MDl paid by NFLPA and the NFL franchises equally so that there is no conflict of interest between their recommendations and the source of their pay checks (players want to play hurt, teams want to get every minute out of their human resources). In addition, time needs to be increased for players who have suffered a concussion to recover.