How Many Concussions Is Too Many To Play Football Concussions – The NFL’s Biggest Headache

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Concussions – The NFL’s Biggest Headache

If Brian Westbrook’s vision wasn’t so blurry and the fog covering his mind wasn’t so dense, the shaken Eagles running back could thank Joseph Mason Reaves.

Reeves was also a football player, a generation of athletes notable for their tendency to be stubborn and weak. His teammates called him “Bull,” though he was often too embarrassed to hear them.

Reeves’ infamous 1893 assignment with the Navy was to bang his head against flying masts, which worked with deadly — literally, sometimes — effectiveness against the lawbreakers.

In retrospect, the “source” was probably a foolish strategy, given that football bosses like Reaves had yet to wear a hat. In the sport’s heyday, players truly believed they could protect their heads simply by wearing their hair long.

Few people got a haircut during the season. Many were shaken.

Reeves, who like Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, IL, must have thin hair. He was knocked out so often that at the end of the 1893 season, a Naval Academy doctor warned him that it could lead to death or “instant insanity” in the future.

While death was not uncommon in the football era, so brutally violent that the sport nearly killed itself, madness was something else. The prospect of a naval officer commanding an American warship, the first to be built at the time in US naval yards, was not something the head of the academy could not approve of.

So even though the fourth annual meeting with the Army was on the Navy’s schedule, Capt. Robert L. Fithian invited the 21-year-old to his office. “Reeves, my good man,” he said to the elder, “I cannot in good conscience allow you to play in the coming game against Army.”

But Bull Reeves, who, although he failed to realize the danger of permanent head injuries, foresaw the value of aircraft carriers, had the skills of a future officer. The future admiral sought out an Annapolis shoemaker and asked him to protect his scalp.

The result looked like something Attila the Hun might have worn at a marauding party—as comical as it was. However, the strange device satisfied Fityan. Reaves starred in Navy’s 6-4 victory, and the football helmet, though it wasn’t mandatory for nearly half a century, was born.

Over the decades that Reaves has maintained his playing status and presumably his sanity, helmets have undergone constant and significant change. Doctors, coaches, engineers, pilots and trainers have all tried to improve them. Straps added, then padding. In the late 1940s, the transition from leather to molded plastic began. Masks and later airbag devices were soon introduced.

Today’s modern helmets are as shiny, sleek and beautiful as sports cars. They cost hundreds of dollars each. They are effective marketing devices, selling tens of thousands each year not only to teams, but also to collectors and obsessive fans.

And yet, as evidenced by the struggles Philadelphia’s Westbrook, Washington’s Clinton Portis and at least a dozen other players have endured this season, head injuries remain a headache for the NFL.

According to the league’s own estimates, there are 120 to 130 concussions per season — a number that may be underreported, according to a recent Associated Press poll. “Guys today are a lot bigger and a lot faster,” said Sam Huff, a Redskins broadcaster and former linebacker. “The game is violent and it always will be.”

This rationale does not help much in an era of hyper-litigation. So commissioner Roger Goodell recently ruled that no injured player would be allowed to return to the field. Players are also under increasing pressure to sit out the game after injury.

“After being ruled out for the duration of a practice or game,” Goodell’s memo said, “a player should not be considered for return to football until he is fully asymptotic, both at rest and after practice. routine neurological examination, routine neuropsychological testing and cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and an independent neurological consultant.”

The problem of football in this age of health is faced by the nature of this sport: How do you remove the violent effects from the sports of violent effects? With better hats? Tougher penalties? A stricter health care policy?

So far, none of these options have done much to curb the epidemic. Baseball can, if it chooses, legalize only its violent aspect, binball. Basketball has successfully combated stray elbows and robberies in the passing lane.

Hockey is probably the closest to soccer of the four major sports in its propensity for kicks, but on the ice they don’t happen nearly as regularly.

All the NFL knows at this early stage of what is becoming an increasingly vexed topic for the league is that something needs to be done.

In addition to Goodell’s new executive order, the Players Advisory Forum was created under the leadership of Tony Dungy. Its purpose is to get input on hot-button issues from players around the league and give it to Commissioner Roger Goodell. It has already asked helmet manufacturers to come up with a safer design. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. “Players continue to be an invaluable resource in providing guidance and insight to a wide range of programs and policies,” the commissioner said in announcing the committee’s creation. “Tony’s experience and expertise in working with players makes him an ideal leader.”

The committee will certainly find that a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research has found. This study found that 6.1 percent of responding gamers suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or some other memory disorder. That’s five times the national average for men their age.

The numbers were even worse for young NFL graduates. Those between the ages of 30 and 49 reported suffering from these disorders 19 times more than the American average.

A follow-up study by the Associated Press of 160 current NFL players found that half had suffered serious head injuries, and many hid the fact from their teams.

Most of the blame, of course, can be attributed to the specific physics of football. Physically gifted big defenders and defensive backs throw themselves at each other like missiles. Helmets, designed for protection, often become dangerous projectiles as players hit them in the back, pelvis, and occasionally other heads.

In steel cage battles in the pits, less visible but equally insidious and even bigger linemen butt heads.

And running backs and tight ends diving for extra yards are often knocked to the knees — as Westbrook did — by rushing defenders. Not surprisingly, these repeated actions of vibrations can have a dangerous cumulative effect.

According to a recent article in the New Yorker magazine, researchers believe that most of these injured former players have a neurological disease called CTE (Traumatic Traumatic Encephalopathy CTE), which is the result of repeated brain trauma.

The magazine says the brains of Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, who was a homeless man at the time of his death; Andre Waters, the Eagles tight safety who was so depressed he shot himself in the head, and Justin Strzelczyk, the one-time Steelers lineman who died while driving his truck the wrong way down the highway. at 90 mph.

If football players retire after a serious head injury, experts say they will face fewer problems in the near future. But, unfortunately, there were not many players left to form a league.

Almost every NFL player has, at some point in their career, fainted during a game or practice. Many do not reveal the depth of their problems because they are afraid of losing their position. For example, Dungi told a radio interview that he did exactly that. And after Westbrook got concussed early in the season, he sat out two games, came back and got concussed again.

The New York Times reported that Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamulu has suffered six concussions since high school. The total was three for Steelers QB Ben Roethligsberger, who recently missed a game after being knocked out.

How many will end up like former Steelers Webster and Strzelczyk?

Douglas H. Smith, a professor of neurology at the Bryan Injury and Rehabilitation Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Philadelphia Inquirer: “It’s not that you’ve lost cognitive skills, but you’ve also increased the likelihood of having worse problems in the future.” Right now, the NFL can’t think of a worse problem.

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