Thoughts on Warner, Toomer and Concussions

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.

18 thoughts on “Thoughts on Warner, Toomer and Concussions

  1. concussionsolutions May 4, 2012 / 11:30

    Great comment by Nowakoski! It perplexes me as to why parents, coaches, or anyone else for that matter would take this topic so lightly (especially when it comes to the long term health and safety of there own children). I’ve had two mothers in the last year ask me if there kid should continue playing football. Both of these kids had significant injuries that I believe went beyond a concussion. Although my role as a certified athletic trainer is not to officially DQ kids, my response was simply that “if it were my kids, (because they asked what I would do with my own kids) there are so many other extracurricular things I could find for them to do”. I even had one say (of her 12 year old son who had never played organized tackle football before) that her son “loved” football and how can she take away something that he “loved”! In our frank discussion that we were engaged in I simply replied, “Ma’am. He’s 12. How does he know what he “loves” at this point in his life? You are his mother and unfortunately you need to do what’s in the best interest of your son’s long term health, regardless of what he might “think” he “loves” at this point”. She was genuinely concerned that her son would hate her and go into a state of depression if she did not allow him to play tackle football (I remind you, for the very first time in his life playing any kind of football).

    Even with access to a certified athletic trainer, like this particular woman did, folks are still in some sort of internal battle with themselves even when presented with clear facts. I am not that naive to think that we will never deal with these things as athletic trainers (or as human beings in general). People will be people and they will do what they do for reasons unknown. It just seems like emotions should not be driving this train when it comes to brain injury, especially knowing what we know now.


  2. A Concerned Mom May 4, 2012 / 17:10

    It’s good to see more attention focused to youth concussions, but sometimes I’m not sure if everyone’s getting their facts right – more than a thousand might be understating the problem a little. As for the innovative products, I don’t know if any have been proven to help.!prettyPhoto/0/

    “According to experts there are more than a thousand head injuries reported each year from youth sports. They also say hundreds go unreported.”

    “Equipment makers are scrambling to fill the need for more innovative products.”

  3. A Concerned Mom May 4, 2012 / 19:10

    ““I think it’s irresponsible and unacceptable,” Hoge said of Warner suggesting that football is a dangerous game for children. “He has thrown the game that has been so good to him under the bus. He sounds extremely uneducated.”

    In Hoge’s view, parents can’t just put their children in bubble wrap and ensure they’ll never suffer a concussion, but what they can do is ensure their children will get proper treatment and adequate time off if they ever do suffer a concussion. And Hoge says that children playing in youth leagues that follow the proper concussion guidelines are actually playing a safer sport than youth football players of times past played.”

    • Dustin Fink May 4, 2012 / 20:04

      Hoge is a tool… He should know better, his brain issues escorted him out of the league…

      • A Concerned Mom May 4, 2012 / 20:14

        I happen to know from personal experience that it can be very difficult for a parent to ensure that their child gets proper treatment and adequate time off from school. In fact, there are many stories out there about how difficult it is for parents to get appropriate treatment and academic accommodations for concussed children and teens.

  4. A Concerned Mom May 4, 2012 / 20:58

    This study is a few years old, and awareness has increased, but there may be coaches out there who still hold beliefs similar to C8’s.

    “Other coaches said they sometimes do not make referrals. C8 said he was hesitant to allow his athletes to be evaluated by physicians. He did not agree that bell ringers were consistent with concussion, nor did he agree that there was an added risk of playing through such an injury. C8 suggested doctors were too quick to diagnose a concussion and remove an athlete from play, thereby making his coaching job more difficult:

    I just think doctors are sometimes being so leery that if there’s any question in their mind then they say the kid’s got a concussion and shouldn’t play. They just don’t want to risk getting sued. There’s got to be a happy medium there.”

  5. A Concerned Mom May 5, 2012 / 07:44

    “And still kids are signed up to play a game designed to punish the human body, and the brain.

    So why not make it simple and just give the kids packs of cigarettes instead?

    Or you might encourage them to beat their brains out as prizefighters. Fight promoters, like NFL teams, are always looking for fresh beef. Imagine cheering for your son in the ring as he dodges left hooks and throws that counter right, crunching the other fighter’s temple.

    Isn’t that what we cheer when there’s a big hit on NFL Sundays? And are we not entertained?

    At least prizefighting isn’t sold as apple pie and the American way.”

  6. A Concerned Mom May 5, 2012 / 08:55

    “Ross said he was surprised by how often concussions occur on the youth level. At a football game last month, Ross checked on a quarterback, who was tackled from behind causing a whiplash effect to his head.

    “I’m seeing a lot more of it at the (ACJFL) varsity level (where 13- and 14-years-olds play),” Ross said. “I think we’re much more aware of it now and kids are bigger, faster, stronger than ever now.”

    Rice said all the publicity and training is working. He said his office has seen 30 to 40 youth athletes with concussions this fall when normally they would have seen two or three.”

  7. A Concerned Mom May 5, 2012 / 12:08

    “”There are myriad factors that create a downward spiral of depression,” Turley said. “But every one of these cases is exactly the same as far as the brain is concerned. There’s a very visual disruption in the brain areas that control impulses, depression, anxiety and all those other things that contribute to this occurring.”

    Demetrio said the more players who allow their brains to be studied, the better. Seau’s death might help others in the NFL think of the ramifications of head injuries on the field, he said.

    “For the benefit of the players playing the game today, starting in peewee football all the way up, the more evidence that can be compiled,” Demetrio said, “the safer the game will be.””

    • Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, NCSP, Licensed Psychologist May 5, 2012 / 13:46

      reposted from May 3, 2012 as I believe the same response is appropriate.

      The above comments serve to further support the importance of thoroughly assessing and monitoring an athlete’s emotional status…after suffering a concussion.

      Frontal lobes are tied to emotions and {and various aspects of] cognitions…if a ‘component’ that adversely effects cognitions can be damaged, so may a ‘component’ that adversely effects emotions.

      • A Concerned Mom May 5, 2012 / 14:52

        I left two video links in the “Family Allows Brian to be Studied” post that are really informative. In the second video segment, around the 30 min. mark, a neurotrauma/rehab specialist indicated that she believes pediatricians are clearing kids too quickly. I suspect some children are cleared while they may still be exhibiting some subtle (or even not so subtle) emotional, energy level, and sleep disturbances.

  8. A Concerned Mom May 5, 2012 / 15:54

    “Football has been good to the Ryan family through the years. Despite the growing concerns of head injuries (and the possible link to Junior Seau’s suicide), Rex Ryan made it clear that he still wants his son, Seth, to play the sport that he loves. Kurt Warner made waves last week by saying that he’d prefer his children not play football. (He later backtracked after Amani Toomer criticized him).”

  9. A Concerned Mom May 5, 2012 / 15:59

    “The report cited a story by Tony Grossi of that said “McCoy’s fate as a former starter was sealed” the moment Brad McCoy decided to make public comments about the Browns inserting his son back in the game after a dangerous-looking concussion.”

  10. A Concerned Mom May 6, 2012 / 15:28

    I would hope that “men” (aka 18-year-old high school graduates) who don’t have the money to go to college would get better choices than the two outlined below … not that I have anything against the military, just commenting on how the various options were presented.

    “Though plenty of men choose to play college football because they hope to play pro football and not because they want a college education, plenty of men know that football ultimately serves its purpose by providing a college education that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain. And if, in the end, the decision comes down to the risk of incurring CTE on a gridiron or encountering an IED on a dirt road in Afghanistan, plenty of men will gladly embrace the risks of playing college football.”

    • Educator Mom May 6, 2012 / 21:41

      I find it quite offensive to compare injuries on the sports fields to injuries incurred by our military who are protecting out country and our freedoms! And quite frankly the amount of athletic scholarships available versus that number of athletes playing the game in college is pretty small. If you want to go to college and stay healthy, spend your time in the books instead of on the fields!

      • Matt Chaney May 7, 2012 / 09:30

        Great points, Educator Mom. Amazing how football delusion clouds simple sense, and ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio is perfect example. Florio leads only the ‘front lines’ of idiocy, spewing garbage still about ‘safe football.’ Florio and fellow NFL mouthpiece Merrill Hoge really stepped in a pile last week: Hoge tells halting parents they’re too stupid to understand how safe football is today (a century-old line of crap), and Florio suggests football and its players are as necessary as our national defense backed by courageous soldiers and their families. And Florio, the pencil neck is absolutely clueless of how few legitimate football scholarships exist, talking of football’s ‘providing’ education to ‘plenty of men.’ No, Florio, the multitude of colleges and universities below NCAA majors provide substantial athletic aid for only a MINORITY of their football players. Often a school diverts taxpayer monies like federal work study, illegally, to pay football players and other athletes. Or a college will sell a kid and his parents about being ‘recruited’ to play football, when actually a mere books fee is paid while the institution loads student loans on the family. Football programs and schools direct working parents to drop their sons from as dependents on tax forms so he can receive Pell money and other government grants. Some college football programs manage to have out-of-state players instantly switched to in-state status, through several tricks aided and abetted by local yokes in government. On and on, the money scams go for college football, as I learned in my short time as a college football coach. Bottom line, talk like Florio’s, that college football itself provides flowing funds to educate tens of thousand players a year, is a lie. He’s just a witless parrot for the game’s BS.

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