Rodney Harrison was a FEARED defensive back playing the safety position. Cut from the same cloth as Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, Harrison not only protected the end zone, he made dang sure you knew he was there. Often he was seen absolutely destroying opponents on the gridiron, a human missile intent on separating the offensive player from the ball. Most of his action was prior to what I have coined the “concussion era” in football – 2010 to present.
Sure we knew about concussions before then, sure we as medical professionals – especially athletic trainers – took them very serious, but until then the spotlight was not on this injury as it is now. Harrison and other lethal defenders around his time – Steve Atwater – were not scrutinized nor were they penalized for those now deemed dangerous hits. It was part of the game, and in some cases those types of hits are still perfectly legal and punishing. Now Harrison who is approaching his 40th birthday is, well, his quote sums it up;
“I’m scared to death of what may happen to me,” the 39-year-old said.
On the Dan Patrick Show Harrison spoke freely about concussions and mostly his;
“I think I had at least 20 or 30 concussions,” Harrison said on the show.[…]
Still, it’s not entirely surprising, and Harrison’s not even the only safety to admit to a high number of concussions on Patrick’s show this summer. Steelers safetyTroy Polamalu told Patrickthat he’s had “eight or nine” concussions and also that he’s lied about his health in order to stay in games.
Harrison, now a national football analyst, said on the show that he’s already starting to feel the effects of his head injuries, including memory loss and headaches.
It can be scary to the individual and it can cause overreaction by the public, but Harrison’s candor is welcome and much-needed. I truly believe that had he had proper management, say at concussion #12 (#1 would be ideal), he may not be suffering from problems now. It takes players from the highest level to hammer home the message; education and awareness of the true problem – mismanagement of concussion. Honestly, most mishandling comes from the player themselves; followed by coaches, parents and even health care providers.
Thanks Rodney for opening this dialogue about your situation, only hope others (looking at Steve Young and Troy Aikman) can do the same, for all of them will impact the awareness cause greater than people like me.
I hope these players realize how valuable it is for them to share their stories. It not only helps to raise awareness for brain injuries and the long lasting effects but it also gives our student athletes who are struggling with the same things someone to identify with. It is a very lonely feeling to think that “I am the only one…” I hope more of these players have the courage to come forward and tell their stories.