The controversial case of concussions continues

Published: April 7, 2016

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS FORMER TENNESSEE Titans quarterback Jake Locker hands the ball off during a 2013 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Locker, 27, retired last offseason after suffering numerous concussions during his brief professional career. Locker is just one of thousands of players who have experienced concussion-like symptoms.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / FORMER TENNESSEE Titans quarterback Jake Locker hands the ball off during a 2013 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Locker, 27, retired last offseason after suffering numerous concussions during his brief professional career. Locker is just one of thousands of players who have experienced concussion-like symptoms.

Commentary by
RYAN DISDIER

Concussions in football are as certain as death and taxes. It is a sad truth, but this particular head injury is simply unavoidable in the violent sport of football.

In 2015, Will Smith starred in “Concussion,” which is a true story about a doctor’s journey to expose the hypocrisy of the NFL. The movie received acclaim, and rightfully so. It helped paint a picture for those who are unfamiliar with the sport.
I opted not to see it, simply because it would be a reiteration for me, as I am already familiar with the violent nature of football.

Controversial would be an understatement when discussing head trauma in football. One side of thinking would say the game itself should be outlawed, as head injuries and serious brain damage cannot be taken lightly. The other side, however, would suggest these particular athletes are choosing to partake in the dangerous game.

I personally fall somewhere in the middle. As someone who played football for seven years, including all four years of high school, I feel safe saying that if someone has played football at any level more intense than Pop Warner, they have almost certainly suffered a concussion. I have had numerous concussions because of football, and at the time, the minimal risk of getting a concussion was worth the reward, as I knew I would not continue my playing career at any level other than intramural flag football.

Obviously the degree of concussions range from mild to severe, but the simple fact is that football is a sport where people are colliding with other human beings at a fast speeds. It is far from a soporific sport, so it is not hard to figure out why concussions are so prevalent in football.

For the NFL to “admit” there is a link between chronic trauma encephalopathy and football is almost comical. I say that not to be satirical or humorous, but because realizing concussions are incredibly prevalent in football is not exactly rocket science.

Concussions are more prevalent now, but there are a lot of factors that go into that. For starters, athletes are just better than they were during the inception of the sport. Planet Earth is home to some freakishly talented athletes, which means football is being graced by stronger, faster and more explosive players than ever before.

Second, poor tackling can cause concussions. Unfortunately, we live in the social-media era, where kids are getting access to phones earlier, which in turn gives them access to, well, everything. Because of this, kids are learning how to tackle by watching grown men lay gruesome hits. If you watch any college or professional football game, you would be hard-pressed to find a player make a technically-sound, form tackle. More often than not, players will just run at another human being and hope for the best.

Third, concussions exist because there is only so much protection a helmet, which is made of plastic, can provide for a human brain.

I am not one for tragic brain injuries that could ultimately lead to death. I absolutely, 100 percent applaud players who decide to walk away from the game early in an attempt to avoid the potential brain damage. But the key word there is ‘decide’.

These players, these superstars even, have a choice to become famous. The oversaturation in the media fetishizes superstardom, and these players desire to chase it, and I do not blame them.

Football is the ultimate risk-versus-reward sport, and dare I even say, occupation. These athletes have the chance to make millions of dollars in a short span of time, invest well and be retired and set for life by 35. I cannot think of another profession outside of gambling that offers that much luxury. For example, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant signed a contact that was worth up to $70 million, including $32 million guaranteed, when he was 26. The deal included a signing bonus of $20 million. Bryant got paid more to sign his name than most people will make in their entire life. Obviously, Bryant, as well as other players, is doing more than just signing his name. He is putting his body on the line to play a game and entertain millions.

For guys like Bryant, the risk is worth the reward.

Football is an inherently dangerous game, and that is no secret. But you should not “hate” it because of the injuries that come with it. Understand these players are superheroes, taking the risk to become immortalized. They are not stupid, they understand the risk.

So while it is obviously logical to be against concussions in football, demonizing the league does not make sense.

Contact the writer: ryan.disdier@scranton.edu

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