Dr. Ken Stoller: Play & Pay

Oct 9, 2010

Play & Pay

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KP Stoller, MD, FACHM

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In memory of Pat Tillman

There are certain similarities between the warriors who become football players and the warriors who serve the needs of the military. In a sense, football is organized war, whereas “real” war is disorganized. Of course, retired soldiers have the VA, an understaffed organization that makes the process for applying for benefits a labyrinth of complications because the more obstacles they can throw up at the retired soldier, the longer the VA can delay providing the benefits a retired soldier is entitled to, the less the VA has to pay out in the long term. Does this sound vaguely familiar to retired football players?

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This is not about politics or whether or not you condone war as a problem-solving tool, or as a way to make vested interests lots of money, because that is actually what “real” war has become. This is about asking human beings to put themselves physically on the line while not taking care of them properly if they get injured when the inevitable happens.

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As of March 2010, the government reported that 565,000 new veteran patients had been treated in VA hospitals since 2001. Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), a national advocacy group that tracks the VA, estimates that by now that number has increased to 619,000, and will eventually reach one million by 2014.

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So, when you go to war and have no plan to monitor or estimate casualties, no plan for caring for non-fatal casualties and no long-term funding for non-fatal casualties – in fact, when you go out of your way to conceal the true human and financial costs while at the same time throwing up roadblocks that deny veterans their benefitsthen you have a very serious situation and these are the consequences.

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The US Army has reported that 1,713 soldiers attempted suicide during fiscal year 2009. A total of 239 succeeded in suicide, 146 died as a result of high-risk behavior and 74 died of drug overdose. These are not veterans, these are active duty soldiers. When you look at the veteran population the number is more like 1.5 million suicide attempts per year with perhaps 50,000 being successful. That is a lot of human carnage any way you look at it.

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Most of these cases are TBI/PTSD even it was a drug overdose that did them in. It is time to look at the true costs of asking our fellow human beings to put themselves on the line and at the very least demand that they receive the appropriate compensation and support that they have earned. If that means we have less war, then so be it. If that means that football as we know it changes then so be it. But we should not pretend to enjoy, or benefit, or profit from the work of others without consciously being aware and responsible for the true costs involved.

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Some of you who read this blog know I’ve been treating George Visger and Wayne Hawkins with hyperbaric oxygen for their TBI and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). George recently dodged another bullet when – as it turned out – his shunt was temporarily getting blocked. George’s brain cannot drain its own cerebrospinal fluid so his brain will be crushed if a shunt that runs from his head into his abdomen is blocked.

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George continues to be a warrior for those retired from the NFL who receive no benefits and for those with TBI who don’t know there is a treatment at hand that could restore function to their lives. The thought that we almost lost this incredible new advocate for TBI victims moved me to write this. Again, this is not about politics or war; this is about doing the right thing for those we ask to work for us and being conscious about it.

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And so it goes.

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Kenneth P. Stoller, MD, is President of the International Hyperbaric Medical Association, a Diplomat of the American Board of Pediatrics, a Diplomat of the American Board of Hyperbaric Medicine, a Fellow of the American College for Hyperbaric Medicine, Medical Director of the San Francisco Institute for Hyperbaric Medicine, the Hyperbaric Oxygen Clinic of Sacramento, and the Hyperbaric Medical Center of New Mexico. A book by Dr. Stoller’s late son will be published at the end of the year (www.dreamtreaderpress.com).

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2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Tweets that mention Dr. Ken Stoller: Play & Pay - Dave Pear's Blog -- Topsy.com
    October 11th, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Recoil Clothing , RobertinSeattle. RobertinSeattle said: Dr. Ken Stoller: Play & Pay: Play & Pay . KP Stoller, MD, FACHM . There are certain similarities between the warri… http://bit.ly/cuhjHs [...]

  2. Dave Pear
    October 12th, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    From: George Visger 10/12/2010

    Check out Bleacher Report: Power Rankings all 32 Teams; and go to team # 14.

    Michael Vick is using hyperbarics to come back quicker and so he can play again this week:

    Bleacher Report: Eagles Michael Vick

    George Visger

    Dave Pear: What about retired NFL players with serious football injuries?
    1) George Visger
    2) Wayne Hawkins
    3) Brent Boyd
    4) Thousands of other injured retired players?

    We must be chopped liver?

    Regards
    Dave & Heidi Pear