In the light of the recent so called “discovery” of head trauma to Chris Henry, I feel it’s fitting to give you the real deal as far as concussions are concerned. Concussions have been around since the game originated. This is not a new found idea or theory. We as gladiators, sent down by Zeus himself are trained and taught to show no pain, fear nothing, and show no weakness. We battle in some of the worst climates and against some of the most unbelievable odds. We are taught to be mentally and physically tough, and to do your job. I started playing football when I was 6 years old. My father, who himself was a great athlete had instilled the “no fear” aspect into my life at an early age. From the time I could hold any kind of ball, there was always a competition going on between him and I. While most of my friends played basketball amongst themselves, I was at the Rec playing with my father and other grown men. This started around the age of 7 I guess. So picture a bunch of 25 and above aged men and me, funny huh. I got no special treatment, my dad made sure of that. So I got fouled hard, I got my shots blocked, I got posted up, and know what, I had to suck it up and play. And I did, I had no choice. My dad is a towering 5 foot 8 yet my dad always played center, always. Normally you would think the more taller guys would go down low, but he always told them to play other spots. My dad has always been a tough SOB and it was known. For most athletes that make it professionally, stories like these aren’t unusual.
My point of that story is to show you an example of how and when the voiding of fear, pain or ailments begins for some of us. So why is it that now athletes are speaking out about concussions ? Why is it such a big deal now ? It’s never been before, it’s always been part of the game. Concussions were pretty much in the same category as any other injury . I have had a couple concussions, maybe more but did anyone know ? Absolutely not. For instance, during a game a running play occurred which I was involved in. I came up and made the tackle and popped up. A few problems with this scenario though, the guy I tackled was a 230lb running back, the second problem was the team we were playing was running a hurry up offense. Now, I knew where I was and had an idea of the situation but when I went out to cover my guy, there were three people out there. So as I looked at this I turned inside to see what was going on. I remember saying “uh either this ain’t right, or I ain’t right”. So what did I do, I covered the one in the middle. Made sense at the time, but did it really ? Why didn’t I call time out ? Why didn’t I say something ? Because thats not in the training, that’s not what I was taught, that’s not what my predecessors would have done. I mean, my high school football coach was granted a purple heart while serving in the Marine Core ! Imagining what he faced you thnk I’m worried about covering three dudes, potentially ? Uh, I think not. After that play was over, there was a timeout and I squirted water on my face and moved on. I’m not an unusual case, this happens all the time, in every game, on every day there is one played.
Most athletes dislike the training room, such as myself. I mean to the point that the only time I went in the training room was to get taped. Period. Did I have sprains or pulls that happened ? Absolutely ! Was I going to tell the trainer or the coach ? Hell to the No ! The NFL is a different animal from the other professional sports. I would compare it to the automotive industry. Colleges are like car plants all over the country, free agents are more like independent used car dealerships. Ya know, like Uncle Buddy’s used cars. Teams are the purchasers of the cars. Car gets damaged, doesn’t perform well, or turns out the team doesn’t like the car, they just head to the dealership and buy another. So what happens to the other car you ask ? Well, either it gets fixed and is sitting at Uncle Buddy’s waiting to be purchased again (basically at the crib), or another team who fancies the model buys it, or it’s just sent straight to the wrecking yard to be destroyed and forgotten (retirement). And you wonder why a little “concussion” is not disclosed ? Football players are expendable, there is not much guaranteed money to spread around, there are no guaranteed contracts. Players fight for every dollar they can, as long as they can, before it’s too late.
The post career lives of professional football players have always been difficult to maintain. George Visger, a former lineman for the San Francisco 49ers lives his daily life out of little notebooks. His memory started fading in 1982, He himself said “If it’s not written down then it doesn’t exist”. Without his notebooks he has no memory of his life. Honestly, I to an extent understand where he’s coming from. There are blocks of my life I have no idea about. Fortunately for me it’s not as bad as George or others. Imagine having no memory of your childhood, your accomplishments, the name of your wife, or your children. And what about the other symptoms, depression, anger, abnormal sleep, dizziness, confusion, anxiety, slurred speech, headaches, and swelling of the brain ? I could continue if you’d like. It’s very serious and I too have experienced some of these symptoms and seen some of the worst ones. Yet from the outside the only thing that is seen is the glory, the money, the fame, the gladiator. And as a gladiator we want to be remembered that way, not as a shell walking the earth not being able to speak, or comprehend simple things. To appear weak or fragile and lifeless.
I am pleased that technology has allowed doctors and researchers to see more of the damage concussions cause. Sadly as in Chris Henry’s case, my case, and others, the damage has already begun and it gets worst the longer one plays. Roger Goodell has seemingly expressed concern about concussions. Finally, the NFL is being pro active on the issue. Yea, now that there have been suicides and deaths to families because of the mental disorders former players have developed. Way to step up. In due time we will see how far the “medical decisions must override competitve decisions” campaign lasts. In my experience it’s still going to be hard to get players to openly admit when they have concussions. I bet some don’t even know when they do, until they are laying unconcious on their back like an armadillo in the middle of the road. Those of you who have made the drive to Lubbock, TX know what I’m talking about. It’s going to take a while. All the technology in the world can’t change that. The new helmet design, the accelorometer they are suppose to being testing, nothing, I mean nothing is going to take precedence over a player having the chance to support his family, being special, being a champion, being a gladiator. Believe me, I know.