Concussions in the NFL Are an Unfortunate, Unavoidable Epidemic

By Jeff Shull

The NFL was rocked and tormented with the news of Junior Seau‘s suicide last week, and it has caused the sports media world to take a good hard look at concussions in the NFL. There is no question concussions have a major impact on former players. Suicidal deaths from ex-NFL players have increased dramatically in the last decade.

As more and more players from the old era get up in age, we’re seeing more take their own life as a result of concussions they suffered in their playing days. Just in the past two weeks we’ve seen multiple suicides. The aforementioned Seau and former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling took their own life. Easterling was part of a major lawsuit against the NFL related to how they handle concussions for former players. According to his wife, Easterling suffered from depression, insomnia, and dementia.

Cases like Easterling’s are popping up everywhere. Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest last year, leaving a note indicating he wanted his brain analyzed. Seau left no note, but the gun shot went through his chest as well.

Most of these players have suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, which is a sophisticated way of saying dementia caused by blows to the head. Also in most of these cases, the CTE was not discovered until after they died.

The NFL has made several advancements to avoid problems for active players. There are new rules that prevent players from re-entering games unless they pass a concussion test on the sideline, and they have to pass a similar test before taking the field in the following weeks.

Commissioner Roger Goodell took the Bounty Scandal very seriously, as the intent to injure opponents was at the forefront of that debauchery. He used his harsh suspensions as a deterrent, sending a message to every player in the league that bounties will not be tolerated.

Unfortunately, concussions are never going to be fully removed from the game. Football is a violent, aggressive sport played by some of the strongest and fastest men in the world. The mentality of players will never allow the NFL to completely take care of the problem.

The solution to this problem is telling a player to retire early. Good luck with that.

Good luck telling guys making millions of dollars and providing for their family to step away from the game when they still have juice left in the tank.

Good luck telling an ultra competitive guy to step away from the game in his 20s.

Good luck telling someone to quit the game they’ve played, in most cases, for 20 years.

Finally, good luck expecting players to change the way they play the game. These guys are professionals for a reason, and expecting a radical change in philosophy is ludicrous.

Commissioner Goodell has his heart in the right place, and they are taking measures to reduce the risk, but no one can or should force these players to quit, and that’s the reality of the situation. Players are willing to sacrifice their bodies.

As hard as it is to accept, the league will never be able to eliminate the problem, though hopefully they can continue to make steps that significantly reduce it.


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