Even with the recent events of the Junior Seau passing the issue of concussions, CTE, safety, and longevity of the sport have been very much a hot topic. What hasn’t happened, until recently, is the overt and valuable opinions of those that played in the public forum. Yesterday while traveling to the high school I was listening to the radio and hearing what Kurt Warner had to say about his thoughts as a father watching his sons play football. Basically he stated that AS A FATHER he had concerns and was worried for his children, mainly because of safety and the long-term effects of playing. He himself stated he is “worried” about his health going forward as well.
All genuine and pertinent information from a former player that carries a lot of weight, and I didn’t have one problem with it. Even though he stated he didn’t want his kids to play (as a father) he is not the first, Harry Carson made the same statements about his grandchildren. What caught me completely off-guard was the reaction from former player, teammate of Warner and NY Giant (same team as Carson), Amani Toomer;
“What this reminds me of is the guy at the basketball court, who once he gets done playing takes the ball and ruins the game for everybody else,” Toomer said Thursday on NBC SportsTalk. “I think Kurt Warner needs to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to this. Everything that he’s gotten in his life has come from playing football. He works at the NFL Network right now. For him to try and trash the game, it seems to me that it’s just a little disingenuous to me.”
Disingenuous? He is a father concerned about the safety of his children, how in the world is that disingenuous? Yes the sport of football has brought many good fortunes to players from all levels, but it is a rough sport. Yes, Kurt Warner is a high-profile ex-NFL player whose words are taken as gospel for some. WHO CARES Toomer, he is a dad and is figuring all of this out as he goes. Let the man have an opinion. He didn’t blast the NFL, nor the players, nor his career, or the sport.
Mike Golic, from Mike & Mike echoed my sentiments as the show closed today and he too is right. There is much more we know about brain injury compared to when all these former players suited up, of course it is going to change opinions and make them think twice. Some players would do it all over again knowing what they know now and some wouldn’t want to risk it for their own flesh-and-blood. How is that any different that a coal mining father saying he wouldn’t want his son to follow in his footsteps even though it brought him fortune?
To me Toomer is reacting in a “panic mode” because he feels comments like those of Warner’s will somehow skew and dissuade parents from allowing their children from playing. If is does, as Golic stated, “so be it” and I agree. Before Warner’s comments I have stated that I will not allow my kids to play tackle football until high school, does that make me disingenuous? Of course not, I am a nobody, but my concerns are the same as Warner’s. The only person being disingenuous is Toomer (I wonder if he can see the real world with his head buried in the sand).
A fellow athletic trainer, a good one at that, also had some great reaction to this issue as well on his blog. Tom Nowakoski put it this way;
I do not have a problem with Kurt stating he doesn’t want his kids playing the game. As a grad assistant at Syracuse back in 2003-2004 working with the football team, I can recall a large majority of the players stating they would not let their kids play the game and at that point it had nothing to do with head injuries. It had more to do with the physical toll their entire body took participating in the game. Many, without football, tell you they would not be in college if it weren’t for that scholarship and they are playing to provide the opportunity for their kids not to have to play and depend on the game to get them a college degree. The game of football has many benefits that one blessed enough to be talented at can take advantage of.
Head injury is an inherent risk in participating in football, just as neck injury, paralysis, broken bones, torn ligaments, surgeries and more!
As an athletic trainer, it is important that those playing, and the parents and coaches of those playing, understand what we as a profession have understood for many years – what a concussion is, proper management of the concussion and implications of poor management.
Nowakowski went on to discuss a part of the show I missed this morning about the rise in concussions. I must say that his analysis is just about as spot on as I can make it;
During the segment this morning, they mentioned how the number of high school concussions have risen in recent years. I may get bombarded with this and please don’t take this the wrong way but I don’t see it. As a high school ATC for the last 8 years I still see between about 6-8 concussions a school year – from football to soccer to basketball – to locker room horseplay! I’ve taken concussions seriously from Day 1 as it was ingrained in me during my formal education days through my mentors. I believe the numbers are rising for several reasons, and feel free to disagree:
- Call a spade a spade. Some dance around the touchy, borderline cases sometimes afraid to chalk it up as a concussion (why? I don’t know). Mainly it has to do with education and this is a good thing! The public is beginning to understand you don’t need to “get knocked out” to have sustained a concussion and that “getting your bell rung” is a brain injury! Because this is now public knowledge does not mean we need to outlaw the game of football.
- Many of our high schools across the country do not have access to a full time certified athletic trainer. Coaches are the ones responsible for initiating medical treatment and recognizing head injuries. In today’s litigious society, these coaches are becoming much more diligent and less apt to the “suck it up” attitude when it comes to head injury.
- Emergency rooms are becoming more conservative (somewhat!) with discharge instructions and more conservative diagnoses towards concussions.
- Family physicians are more on the hook than in the past in regards to concussions and they do not have the depth of knowledge on the concussion issue and are more apt to chalk it up as a concussion and sit them out. Again, a great thing however when they are clueless towards proper management and return to play guidelines – that can make life miserable as the ATC! (had to throw that in there)
We must remember that this issue is not isolated to football. This issue is across the board in all sports and activities where bodies can collide with each other or objects. CTE is also a problem in hockey as well, lets not forget. We cannot and should not dispose of sports, however we must use better judgement and have proper protection put in place. The easiest and most logical is to get an athletic trainer around for all high-risk activities in sport.