Yesterday while watching an NFL game, I saw a referee stop play and make a offensive lineman leave the game. The official believed that the lineman had taken a hit to the head; so he was escorted to the sideline for a concussion screening.
Last week in another game, I saw a player get hit in the head during a tackle. He got up slowly and the game announcers noted that doctors were escorting him to the sideline. They went on to explain that an independent doctor unrelated to the team would assess the player for concussion symptoms, and make a determination whether he could go back in the game.
Both of these events are new to the NFL. With attention being given to head injuries, a blow to the head is no longer just “getting your bell rung”.
A Hollywood film titled Concussion starring Will Smith, follows the true story of Bennet Omalu. In 2005 he shocked the football world and especially the NFL by reporting his study in the journal Neurosurgery that detailed his discovery of the disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He based his findings on what he had found while reviewing a scan of the brain of former Pittsburgh Steeler center Mike Webster. The article is aptly title “The Autopsy That Changed Football”
This clinical pathologist thought that the NFL would be receptive to his findings. Instead, he says that he was made to feel “like he was practicing Voodoo”.
A recent study of 87 of the 91 brains of former NFL players tested by researchers with the Department of Veteran Affairs and Boston University, showed that they tested positive for that same disease that had been found in Mike Webster’s brain: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), In other words, 95.6 percent of former NFL players who had passed away had brains damage that proved that they had been suffering from a disease that has been linked to dementia, depression and even the suicides of several Hall of Fame players.
For years, the NFL fought to disassociate itself from accepting that there is a relationship of football trauma to brain injuries. In fact, the NFL formed a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee to issue an opinion that no NFL player had experienced chronic brain damage from repeat concussions. And in that same Frontline documentary mentioned above, the committee stated that “Professional Players do not sustain frequent repetitive blows to the brain on a regular basis”.
That committee was disbanded in 2008. Fortunately, even the general public knows better. Now, the focus is on safety and recovery. However, I still think that the NFL does not necessarily accept responsibility.
And for pic o’ day, a bit of customer service: