Concussions Continue to Take Center Stage

Oct 19, 2010

After several serious hits viewed by millions during many games last week, the League is now preparing to make an announcement about suspensions for illegal hits (but of course, they also continue to allude to an 18-game season out of the other side of their mouths). The issue of concussions does not appear to be going away any time soon. That said, the only thing mentioned so far for the older retired players is that the League is now discussing expansion of its Plan 88 coverage with the Union. While it may be a good gesture, we want to point out that Plan 88 is primarily focused on the needs of those players who have already progressed into more advanced – and more obvious stages – of dementia or related brain damage. In other words, you and your families will have to suffer through denials of disability benefits and the devastating costs on your own until you’re finally in a position to “prove” that you’ve been damaged over the years from football.

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Dr. Johnny Benjamin posted a short and thought-provoking commentary about concussions on Huffington Post this morning.

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NFL Week 6: Devastating Blows Produce Devastating Outcomes. Players Can NOT have it Both Ways

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I watched NFL Week 6, the bone crushing collisions, the ubiquitous ESPN highlights and listened to the debates/opinions of ex-NFL players turned TV analysts. The NFL Front office has spoken. They will suspend players for devastating hits.

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Many ex-NFL players and presumably some current players are concerned about losing the integrity of the game by attempting to legislate ‘physicality’ or the intense, inherently violent nature of the sport.

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It was reported on ESPN that a current assistant NFL coach suggested that young men choose to play football and that they are not forced.

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Therefore is it reasonable to assume/conclude that they also choose to become crippled for the rest of their lives? Because that is what often happens to hundreds if not thousands of young, once amazingly healthy men.

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If you question my assertion (and you should) visit some of the injured and disabled players’ web sites to gain a better understanding of the true aftermath of this game that we all love.

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Players both current and retired cannot continue to believe that they can enthusiastically destroy each other on the field and then fade away into retirement to enjoy a happy, healthy productive and relatively pain and operation free life.

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The current style of football is producing relatively young men with seriously damaged brains, bodies and lives at an alarming rate.

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What is the correct answer? I am not certain but I do know that it involves taking action during the game and not by merely ignoring disabilities, minimizing injuries and/or refusing benefits in retirement.

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Posted in its entirety with permission from Dr. Benjamin.

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And last night, Dr. Julian Bailes and Dr. Bennet Omalu talked about their work with football concussions on ABC’s Nightline. Garrett Webster also described his father, Mike Webster‘s strange and rapid decline after his long football career. (Junior Seau – are you listening?)
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We keep waiting for the Union to pick up the slack in focusing on retired players’ concussion issues every week. But so far, it seems that the League has continued to manage and lead the discussion in the media. While it’s great PR to see the NFLPA’s Executive Director DeMaurice Smith schmoozing for the support of the AFL/CIO, the Fraternal Order of Police and recently the IAM (Machinists’  Union), retired players have started to contact Union leadership on their own to see if they were aware of the shameful treatment their retired brothers have been treated. Certainly, in every legitimate Union we know of in America, retirement benefits have traditionally been among the best anywhere. Even talk of changing retirement benefits is often grounds for a strike or a walkout by its active members. We can’t even begin to imagine the national outcry that would ensue if a wounded or fallen police officer were to be denied his or her earned benefits. Yet not one peep from the Union when a retired player gets denied his benefits in even the most obvious cases.

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Over the next week, we plan to continue discussions on more of the issues that Dr. Benjamin brought up in his post.

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P.S. – George Visger will be doing a radio interview regarding the new NFL head/helmet policy to be announced on Wednesday.  George’s interview will be at 6:05 pm PST with Alan Wickware on News/Talk 980 CJME/650 CKOM Sports Night from Saskatchewan Canada. The Interview will be Podcast live HERE or HERE.

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You can read Dave’s comments to Dr. Benjamin’s post HERE.

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2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. George Visger
    October 20th, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    George Visger
    One good thing for me is that at age 52, I just “MIGHT” qualify for the NFL’s 88 Plan, considering I don’t qualify for anything else. I have already been diagnosed with early symptoms of CTE and am currently taking two dementia medicines (Arricept and Namenda) along with my antiseizure med, Lamictil, to combat my NFL Industry-caused gran mal seizures that I’ve lived with for over 25 years. These injuries were proven in a California Court of Law as work-related when I successfully sued the 49ers for Workers Comp back in 1986.

    With Roger Goodell and De Smith knocking down multimillion dollar salaries, maybe we can get them to cover Dave Pear’s impending hip replacement with their pocket change. At the very least, maybe they can cover a lunch for him.

    I would pitch in but I’m still waiting to see if my next brain surgery (# 10 I think) will qualify me for any NFL benefits. Came close to finding out two weeks ago when my shunt malfunctioned, but what the heck – it’s pumping again! So just suck it up and get back out there and play and quit acting like a wuss!

    We all need to quit whining and crying and just be glad we have guys like Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith looking out for our best interests. After all, isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do?

    Back in the day, there was a saying, “Paybacks are a bitch.” I can only hope Roger and De have their heads on a swivel as we used to say.

    George Visger
    Brain Damaged Wildlife Biologist/Motivational Speaker
    Visger & Associates Environmental Consulting

    SF 49er 80 & 81
    Survivor of 9 NFL-Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

  2. Emmett "Dickey" Melcher
    October 20th, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    University Maryland Terps
    To All Concerned,

    I am retired and living in Virginia Beach VA. This December 27th, I will be 68 years old. I played football (offensive guard) for the University of Maryland, from 1962 to 1965, and one year with the Philadelphia Eagles farm team. Outside of a full right hip replacement in 2009, I am healthy. I know first and foremost, this is a very violent sport. All of us who have ever played college or professional football know we are going to have some injury or broken bones.

    I still enjoy the game today and every Big Hit I see reminds me of when I played. Let us all feel for those who get hurt but don’t change the game.

    Emmett “Dickey” Melcher