Who Knows What and Who Cares?

Many years ago, I was concussed twice while playing soccer at the collegiate level. So did many of my teammates. I got dazed, saw double for a bit and after a while resumed play. It was all a joke back then. There were no protocols. You sat out until someone held up a few fingers and then it was business as usual.

ConcussionFootball is different. The players are bigger and they intentionally collide at full speed. Then there is the equipment which can be thought of as protective or weaponry – depending.

I landed a job many years ago with a mid-sized food company and I got to know the president of that company pretty well. He was about 10 years older than me, and while he was in college, he started as QB for a legitimate, D-1 powerhouse football team. He and I were from very different backgrounds, but underneath his occasional flashes of anger and stubbornness, I liked the guy. He was a decent man.

Over the time we worked together, I started to feel that something wasn’t quite right. He got angrier more often, got “inappropriate” more often, grew impatient and confused more often.

One fine day, he announced he was going to sell his company to a “banker type.” I knew it was time to move on and find another job. The bankers ultimately ran the company into the ground. I lost touch with my old boss. Two years passed, and I learned from an ex-co-worker that my former boss was in a facility for patients who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The former D-1 hero spent his last days in a bathrobe staring at walls.

Not a diatribe against football

I am an avid football fan, and yes I have my favorite collegiate team and my favorite NFL team. I have two NFL t-shirts, a hoodie, two knit caps (including a model with a pom-pom) and of course, a baseball cap. I watch games at a local sports bar where the owner hangs a huge team flag. Call me crazy; I’m a fan.

I want to know what they know in regard to the head trauma that is taking place, and I think they owe it to me and to everyone else who roots for their teams and buys their overpriced stuff. “None of my business?” Maybe. However, my sense of ethics can’t support an activity where the major stakeholders of the corporation are intentionally trying to hide something from their greatest assets; their athletes and fans.

The latest motivation in my quest for that knowledge was not the Will Smith movie, but an AP article written (November 19, 2015) by Mary Claire Dale entitled: “Lawyer: NFL concussion deal excludes central brain injury.”

According to the article:

“Lawyers appealing the NFL’s $1 billion plan to address concussion-linked injuries in former players say the settlement excludes the central brain injury linked to football…Lawyer Steven Molo asked a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia to reject the settlement because it excludes future payments for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the brain decay found in dozens of deceased ex-players.”

The brief article also made mention that the plan would not compensate for mood disorders such as chronic depression that can obviously lead to suicide.

I am familiar with the settlement plan, but I want to be more familiar with the medical research as it impacts not only NFL players, but additionally collegiate players – and possibly high school. I understand the efforts to reduce helmet to helmet contact and all that, but what about the repeated incidental traumas over and over again? I cannot believe an organization of the size, wealth and magnitude of the NFL does not have – hidden away – some files giving all of us a very good handle on the situation.

I believe the data and the percentages and projecting the likelihoods of brain injury and mood disorder could be highly useful for parents and guardians, coaches, trainers and ultimately for the athletes themselves. It is information that should help anyone responsible for a minor to intelligently decide the child’s future in the game.

Teenagers should not decide their futures in sports without parental input. I apologize ahead of time if you disagree, but if there is a whole body of traumatic brain injury knowledge out there that rationally thinking people can’t access, I think something is amiss. I know some live their entire existence through their kid-athletes, and that’s a shame but if there is something we need to know, shouldn’t we know it?

I understand that many play the game for years without as much as a scratch. However, suppose a young player gets several “scratches,” especially to the head. What then? If you knew the percentages after one or two or three concussions, wouldn’t that help you better decide to have your child continue in football?

It is all well and good for athletes to say, “Well, I’ll take my chances,” or “I’m tougher than those other guys, etc.,” but such is the arrogance of the young.

Am I calling for an end to football? Hardly! I am asking for a deeper sharing of the knowledge. I am willing to wager that I am not alone.

 

(Chuck Gallagher and Bruce Wolk)

For more information:

Sports Ethics LLC

Chuck Gallagher, President and Co-Founder (828) 244-1400

www.sportsethics.com

 

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