Why is it that every happenstance of trouble gets tagged with ‘gate’? I digress… You may have noted that The Concussion Blog has been rather quiet on the issues surrounding the New Orleans Saints – namely Greg Williams – and their “pay-for-injuring” program. There are some reasons for this: full information, previous experiences, not totally concussion related, etc. However after hearing the talking heads around the country delve into the matter more after the explosive audio released (NSFW) yesterday, by Sean Pamphilon, I feel it is time to comment.
Perhaps this problem does not register very high on my meter because I have played sports, or that I have been in football meeting and locker rooms, or that I know and talk with several current and former NFL players. Regardless this ‘gate’ was neither surprising nor extremely disturbing; after all we are talking about professional gladiators. My feelings, however, have changed; enough so that it is time to break our and my silence on the issue.
We must first understand that 99.99% of the general population have ZERO grasp on the actual mentality and pressures of playing professional football, that should be honored. However what 99.99% of the fans of this sport should realize (any sport for that matter) is that part of competition is finding and exposing weaknesses in your opponent to gain an advantage to win. The other simple fact that 100% of those watching, commenting, playing and coaching football MUST accept is that injuries are an inherent risk of football and life for that matter.
What has become painfully obvious in the past 24 hours is that the mentality of players about injuries is completely counter-grain to what we have been preaching about concussions. You see – and players if you read this correct me if I am wrong – the will and want to stay on the field for as long as possible overrides safety when it comes to head injuries. Players and analysts have been spewing this to us lately; “don’t take out my knees… hit me high.” This frame-of-mind deals with the ability to make money, the previous thought process – WHICH IS COMPLETELY WRONG – is that a knee injury ends that game and a “measly concussion” can be played through. There is no foresight on the part of the players regarding long-term effects on the brain. Most forward in their mind is the recovery after a knee injury and how much time (see money) will be affected by such an injury.
WHAT PLAYERS ARE FAILING TO GRASP IS THAT YOU CAN FIX A KNEE OR ANKLE OR BONE, YOU CANNOT FIX THE BRAIN!!!
All of that being said, after hearing the audio yesterday I was disturbed by the ACL comment, however what raised my blood pressure was each mention of the head. From the first mention to the 11th time (including the mention of Alex Smiths’ chin and #10’s concussion) I became more furious with the culture of the game. There were two separate cases where mention was made of knocking someone out, even more troubling.
If a player wants to play within the rules and make clean hits that result in other competitors injuries, that is something we must decide we are OK with – I am. What we CANNOT be OK with is the explicit instruction to injure, maim or harm players outside the framework of the sport. Intentionally going for the head and repeating it ELEVEN times falls into this category with me. Even at the professional level, as I have explained many times is a different animal than the levels below.
Where this is and will be the major issue for the sport is when Johnny and Davey playing junior football at the age of 10 is going out with the same frame-of-mind that is being coached at the professional level. When the parents of a high school player who is laying unconscious see the other players whooping-and-hollering after a helmet-to-helmet hit on a Friday night, it becomes a huge problem.
There is NO PLACE for this in the already high-impact and inherently risky sport. Play the game with respect of self and others and this game will continue for many years to come; play it like savage animals without concern for safety and it too will go away.
The culture of the sport is going to HAVE to change; we must start superseding the value of a concussion over an orthopedic injury. Enforcing the rules already in place and eliminating the intentional blows to the head will help create a sport more viable in the future. And once a concussion occurs getting the proper assessment and management will only foster a better environment for stable growth of football.
Please feel free to comment or send in an email regarding this, I can post comments anonymously.