Concussions in sports are not nearly as monitored as they should be. Everyone knows that, yet it remains a problem, especially in the NFL. Players might sit out one game after suffering one and then jump right back into action. It’s not until any years later, when players experience the consequences of concussions, that they begin to really pay attention to it.
Over a dozen former players are now suing the NFL for various reasons all encompassed in one theme: the league simply does not take enough precaution regarding concussions, regardless of what spokespersons say. This groups of players is headlined by Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, who recently sat down to explain his stance regarding the case.
“Yeah, I understand you paid me to do this, but still yet, I put my life on the line for you, I put my health on the line,” Dorsett said. “And yet when the time comes, you turn your back on me? That’s not right. That’s not the American way.”
Dorsett and the other plaintiffs argue that the NFL did not take do enough to warn them about the dangers of concussions. Dorsett suffered multiple concussions in his 11-year NFL career, but none worse than a hit he took in 1984 that he’ll never forget and one that he says is the hardest hit he ever absorbed in his football career.
“They thought I was half-dead,” Dorsett said.
The NFL has already been questioned regarding concussions this season regarding instances with Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, to name two.
The NFL drew especially harsh criticism after Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison delivered an illegal, helmet-to-helmet hit on McCoy during a Thursday night game in December. Harrison was suspended one game for the hit, but McCoy was allowed to return to the game by the Browns’ coaching staff.
McCoy still doesn’t recall that hit, which ended his season even though he returned to the game. In fact, the Browns’ coaching staff didn’t even test McCoy for a head injury on the sideline; it wasn’t until after the game he was informed he would miss the rest of the season due to a concussion that kept him from any sort of physical activity for nearly a month.
That’s enough to make the NFL pay closer attention to concussions, but now retired players like Dorsett are adding fuel to the fire.
“I don’t want to get to the point where it turns into dementia, Alzheimer’s. I don’t want that,” Dorsett said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that what I went through as a football player is taking an effect on me today. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that. I’m just hoping and praying I can find a way to cut it off at the pass.”
Dorsett went on to say that opposing players would go to the Cowboys’ sideline and tell the Dallas coaching staff to get Dorsett out of the game. The Hall of Famer resents that staff for always telling him to “go to the training room, get some ice and heat and come on back out here.”
Another player involved in the lawsuits is former Miami Dolphins receiver Mark Duper, who cites the use of painkillers to mask concussive symptoms. Now that’s taking its toll on players like he and Dorsett, who fear their minds will deteriorate faster than the average human’s.
“I try not to take medicine. I don’t want to be a zombie,” Duper said. “What little left I’ve got in my brain, I want to keep it normal.”
The NFL continues to release statements that include phrases like “the NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so”. That’s a big load of horse radish and the league knows it. Coaching staffs want their players to be on the field, regardless of the health risks that may present.
Playing football is dangerous, but little things can be done to preserve the sanity human beings’ minds. Not testing a player for a concussion after a brutal hit is a situation that could have left someone like McCoy paralyzed for the rest of his life. Maybe that’s what it will take (or something worse) for the NFL to wake up.
Follow Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin