Friday, January 11, 2013


Those serving in the military know there's a chance they could pay the ultimate
price while fighting for our country

Boxers try to block out death, but they know its happened before in the ring. It
only takes one punch to scramble a brain and alter a life forever.

The construction worker who makes a living in the sky, balancing himself
on a 10-inch steel beam as he helps erect a building, realizes he could be
a wind burst away from falling to his death.

As perilous as it may be, and how devastating the consequences are,
it's what a soldier, boxer, and construction worker signed up for. It comes
with the territory.

On Thursday, it was revealed the former NFL linebacker Junior Seau had
a degenerative brain disease when he committed suicide last May. The disease
is often associated with repeated blows to the head. As a linebacker for 20
years, Seau used his head like a battering ram as he took on juiced up
fullbacks and 300-lb pulling guards, so it came as a shock to absolutely no

Like the soldier, boxer, and construction worker, it's what Seau signed up
for. Like every player who suits up in the NFL, there are consequences,
no matter how much protection is on your body or head. If you make your
living trying to knock out 230-lb running backs with sprinters speed, a price
will be paid, eventually. reported on Thursday that Seau had a collision so vicious during
a practice in 2001, it left a three-inch crack on the helmet of teammate Fred
McCrary. McCrary said that both he and Seau admitted to each other  the impact
of the hit left them with severe pain in their skulls.

Neither of them went to team doctors for treatment, perhaps, one of the reasons
why Seau had so few documented cases of concussions despite playing such a
head-knocking position during a career that spanned two decades.

In the macho, testosterone-filled world of the NFL players, many see a
trip to the trainer a sign of weakness. Others feel missing practice time
or games, opens up an opportunity for someone else to take their jobs.

A trip to a neurosurgeon could mean the loss of job, their livelihood and
significant income. Many of the players are so driven by pride, ego,
and failure, they feel they can "rough it" and pay the consequences later,
bypassing the help they need to avoid long-term brain disease.

Some of  those players are among the 2,000 former NFL ones suing
the league for concealing information linking football-related injuries
to long-term brain damage. The former players stated the NFL "deliberately
and fraudulently" misled players about the link between concussions and
long-term brain injuries.

In fairness to the NFL, so little is known about concussions and brain
disease to doctors around the globe, not just within the framework of
an NFL franchise. To be fair, many team doctors don't get an accurate
read on the severity of the injury because players are often misleading
about them.

In December, Jets quarterback Greg McElroy, after making his first
NFL start, was suffering from headaches after a viscous hit in the game
that nobody seemed to notice. But McElroy hid his injury from the Jets
coaches because he didn't want to give up his status as the team's starting

How could team doctors adequately diagnose a concussion or brain
injury when players like McElroy hide them to keep a starting job? It
happens a lot more than you think in the NFL.

The concussion-brain disease problem among former NFL players is
not about to go away anytime soon. On Thursday, Bernie Kosar, the former
quarterback of the Cleveland Browns revealed he is undergoing treating
for the effects caused by the 10 documented concussions he had during his
career. It seems like everyday a former player divulges he's having
health problems caused by hits to the head or we read about one who
couldn't deal with them and takes their own life.

What can the NFL really do to help this problem go away? Not much. They
can provide the best medical treatment possible, but if players like McElroy
who are more concerned about their paychecks than seeing the effects of
having their brain scrambled, don't seek help, there is not much they can
do. Facts are facts, players don't often divulge their injuries because it
might mean losing their job and hefty paychecks. It is their career, it is what
they do.

The NFL is a brutally violent game and that's not going to change. The players
are remarkably getting bigger, stronger, and faster every year. Television
doesn't do justice on just how vicious the game is. I've been on the sidelines
covering many games and the speed of it is frightening. Boomer Esaison,
the former quarterback, has often stated that someone will die on the field
from a hit in the very near future.

The league can continue to fine players for hits to the head, but that certainly
isn't going to stop them from happening. The NFL is not about to go back
to leather helmets without facemasks, so that's not an option.

This is the NFL. It's what the players signed up for. It's their career, their
livelihood, and their paycheck. Some players would much rather deal with
the consequences later than give up everything that comes with playing in
the league. The prestige, the status, the money would be tough for anybody
to give up.

It's their choice. It's what they signed up for.

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