It’s time for Denver Broncos Training Camp, which means you’re probably forcing yourself to not think about how many head injuries will take place over the next seven months that will have long-term implications for NFL Players. These NFL Players need our help.
I have a list in my head of sports topics that no longer need to be debated. They are topics that get a lot of play on sports talk radio, in blogs and in conversation. Literally, everything that needs to be said about them has been said. Without a dramatic shift in information, I don’t need to hear any more of these opinions. Just cite an old piece. Here’s a sample of some of those topics:
— The argument for the DH in both leagues in baseball
— A shorter (insert league here) season
— The merits of soccer as a sport in America
— The NBA playoffs vs. NHL Playoffs
— Anything involving a collective bargaining agreement
Let’s be honest, the arguments over head injuries in the NFL should be on that list. It’s a topic that should be dead. We should be able to move on. However, the continued blind eye everyone (fans, media members, players and teams) turns to the issue is infuriating.
Just so we’re clear, a lot of the players you love watching football will have or already do have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with repetitive head trauma. The latest story in the New York Times included disturbing photos and statistics.
On top of other injuries to other parts of their bodies besides, they will likely have the following symptoms to worry about for over the last half of their lives: memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, Parkinsonism, and, eventually, progressive dementia.
Be aware that Champ Bailey, Von Miller, Peyton Manning, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis, Jake Plummer and Tim Tebow could end up having CTE. We, as Broncos fans, cheered them on as they contracted the disease from repeated blows to the head.
I just can’t reconcile this. The game that I love watching is leading to a likely diminished quality of life for the people I’m cheering. We’re collective doing little other than shrugging our shoulders when confronted with this issue. The players themselves have many good reasons not to address the issue.
NFL Players Already Have a Workaholic Problem
To play in the NFL, players have to consistently outwork their competition. They have to become workaholics and do whatever it takes to make the NFL. They have to believe that they are super human, better than the average person. That’s how a player reaches such heights in football.
It’s why we can’t leave it up to the players to make changes. They are addicted to football. They’d have to be to continue to play.
I know workaholics. These are people who need the work phone taken away and to be driven home sometimes. When no one forces them to stop working, they log 90 hours a week with no relief—a head injury and long-term health concerns couldn’t keep them away.
That is every NFL player.
Solutions need to be found. A part of me wants the NFL to follow the lead of the NBA in the movie Space Jam. This would shutdown the league until the safety of their players can be guaranteed. Of course, football will never be safe. Instead, the risk needs to be mitigated.
We know what needs to be studied. The workout routines need to be monitored. The rest periods should be analyzed and Thursday Night Games are a huge problem. The equipment needs to evolve.
However, it’s time for training camp, and nothing is going to change. We will see no real leaders on this issue.
I’m not going to stop watching football—I just want to make sure that I understand the real cost. My viewership of the sport makes me an accomplice on this issue. The story of football will one day be that fans (you and me) knew that head injuries were a big deal and did nothing to change things.
I’m not crossing this one off my list. We need to keep having conversations about head injuries in the NFL.