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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Necessary Roughness: Dealing With Concussions in the NFL


OK, kids.  Let's talk concussions.  They're all the talk these days in the NFL, and in keeping with tradition I'd like to toss in my two cents.  Something I think I can do rather efficiently by simply answering the 2 following questions:

1) Why are we seeing more concussions in the NFL?

AND

2) Is enough being done to prevent and deal with them?

And while one would normally think these questions only seem simple, but probably have complex answers, I'd argue that's really not the case.  But instead of arguing that point, I'll just get down to answering those questions.  I'll use the time I saved to find that Brandon Meriweather video I'm gonna need later on...

So here we go...

Q. Why are we seeing more concussions in the NFL?

A. This one's easy, and I distribute blame pie equally between both parties involved...


1) Players are bigger, stronger and faster than they've ever been before.  If you want to get into a performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) discussion, we certainly can.  But let's just leave it at that.  For "whatever" reason, they're just a lot bigger, better and more importantly faster than they've ever been before.  After all, it's the speed that kills, when speaking about concussions.  At least that's how I interpret it.  And the reason I seem to immediately whizz on the PED fire, is that I believe that even if there weren't PEDs in the NFL, that we'd still see an increase in the # of concussions.  Hence why this only deserves 50% of the blame.  The other half goes to those nerds in the lab coats... 


2) Advances in medical science have likewise advanced the ability to diagnose them, and broadened the current definition.  10 years ago you were "knocked out" for a few seconds, have some smelling salts and went back in the game.  Now, you're immediately tested on the sidelines by a team of physicians, and spend the week listed as questionable on my fantasy roster with "concussion like symptoms" while you wait for clearance to play from two separate NFL approved doctors.  Yeah.  So it's pretty simple.  They've become better at detecting them and they're testing for them more frequently, so naturally they've found more cases.  It just makes sense...


So the players are "better", and the medical definition for a concussion has gotten more refined and/or broadened.  That's pretty much you're answer as to why we've seen a rise in concussions.  Certainly other factors such as increased revenue, media attention and the fantasy/gambling element of it all play a role in this, too, but in my eyes those are secondary factors that stem from those two main points.  Bigger dudes, and smarter doctors...


OK, so now we know WHY we're seeing more concussions, it's time to answer good ole question #2...


Q. Is enough being done to prevent and deal with them?

A.  OK.  Gonna seem like a strange example here, but bare with me.  Remember when Dale Earnhardt died after slamming into the wall at the Daytona 500?  What happened after that?  Increased safety measures were taken, but NASCAR kept on truckin'.  And while I hesitate to even mention NASCAR on my blog, or give the impression that I view it as a sport, but it's very useful in this argument because both it and football have one very important trait in common:

Inherent Danger

Listen.  I'm not lookin' for people to get hurt to the point where they can't make a living, but it shouldn't come as news that playing professional football is an inherently dangerous profession.  I mean, isn't that a main reason why these guys get paid so much money?  Again, I'm not saying that players should be critically injured on the field on a "regular basis", but like NASCAR, you have to know that death/paralysis are at least a possibility every time you step out onto that field...

But back to the question at hand.  Is enough being done by the NFL to prevent and deal with the issue of concussions in their league?  My answer is yes.  And that was my opinion before NFL VP Ray Anderson laid down the new laws.  As Commissioner, Roger Goodell has gone out of his way to fine guys for dirty hits, and for the most part it seems that his message has been received.  Naturally there are still plenty of bad apples out there, but that's to be expected.  That's just life, right there...

But like I said, this is a dangerous sport.  And while I hope, like in Earnhardt's death, this apparent rash of concussions leads to increased safety measures, I also hope it doesn't lead to a drastic change in the way the game is played.  Yes, suspend guys that show a flagrant disregard for both the rules and every one's safety.  Just don't overreact to the point where you take away what so many people enjoy about the game.  And that's including the players.  I know they don't want to get "concussed", but to think that they don't thrive on that "on the edge" feeling and that, excuse the pun, "breakneck pace", then I'm not sure you completely understand what makes most of these guys tick...

So in general, I think the NFL is doing a good job of dealing with concussions.  Hell, my argument basically says that they're increased awareness has partly led to the current hysteria.  I'm sure they'll continue to look for ways to improve their equipment and whatnot, but I think they're doing a more than admirable job.  Would it be even better if they were to implement a tougher drug testing policy?  Sure.  But like I said, I don't think that really factors into this issue as heavily as many people might think...


Oh and as for the aforementioned, Brandon Meriweather?  He was fined $50K for his hit on Todd HeapMeriweather, the guy in this video, isn't out there trying to inflict permanent bodily harm on someone? That's him with the helmet at the :50 mark lookin' like...well...lookin' like a dirty punk. I think they call that move "Goin 'U' on 'em".  And we all know you can't spell "dumb" without "The U"!..



Exactly.  Meriweather isn't out there to hurt people, and I'm an astronaut...

But the fact is, it's guys like Meriweather, guys like big mouth James Harrison, that fuel this concussion controversy.  These are the guys that deserve to be punished.  They're the ones that try to make it sound like what they do is part of the game.  Do that.  Make an example of guys like Meriweather & Harrison (who I take exception with more because of the way he talks about his hits than the way he actually hits), and you'll restore the public faith in the safety of the league without having to sacrifice the integrity of the game.  And seeing as that's exactly what the league is doing by employing it's new rules and threatening suspensions, then it only reinforces my opinion that that they're doing a great job protecting their player's safety...Ya know, aside from allowing the rampant PED use...

So everyone just needs to take a deep breath, and calm down.  Is the NFL dangerous?  Of course it is!  That's why we love it!  But has it suddenly got tot he point where it's so dangerous that drastic measures need to be taken to ensure the players' safety?  Nah.  This latest concern in regards to concussions is just another typical overreaction in the name of safety.  And while it's always better to be safe than sorry, it's also always better to ask "Why" before you start rushing to judgment.  That's what I did, and I hope you found it informative...

Catch you Friday, friends...


Teddy Williams...
100...

#$>

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