Saturday, December 22, 2007

Their Welfare Should be Our Concern

One of the issues that Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic is, well, fanatic about is the long-term, physical well-being of those who play the game. For as much as we want to see James Harrison flatten an opposing quarterback or Hines Ward deliver a crushing, blind-side block down field, we also try to use our little blog to advocate for impeccable, world-class protection and care for the players.

One of the issues that has occupied our attention is that of concussions, Frankly, it began with Ben Roethlisberger's offseason from hell, and picked up steam after last season's Atlanta game (you remember, the one during which he was hit hard, and repeatedly about the head); and we have been amazed at how slow the National Football League has been to do anything serious -- whether it be equipment change(s) and/or more proactive medical care -- about a serious problem.

In October 2006 ESPN Magazine revealed to many of us for the first time that there was/is a problem with post concussion syndrome, and players being rushed back onto the field. Then in February of 2007, writing for the Boston Globe, Jackie MacMullan told the heart-wrenching story of former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, and his struggle to survive more concussions than he could count. The story, and Mr. Johnson's assertion that he was forced back into action too soon following head injuries, made for splashy headlines; however it seems that nothing in the league has really changed.

In a story in the New York Times indications are that, at least some, New York Jets players may also be being rushed back in to action. Specifically, the Times article relates the experiences of Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles. He pointedly refuses to answer a reporter's questions regarding a concussion he suffered saying "I can’t talk about that . . . [y]ou know I can’t talk about that.” The article also points out that two former wideouts for the Jets, Al Toon and Wayne Chrebet, both retired because of post-concussion syndrome.

Also important about this article is that it reveals that Elliot Pellman, formerly the chairman of the NFL's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, is "the doctor who oversees the care of the team’s players." The article goes on to say that Dr. Pellman "has been criticized by many medical experts for playing down the effects of concussions and for clearing players to return to the field too soon."

Despite what some in the league (see owners) may think, the players are the game. Forcing, or even allowing, injured players to take the field is unconscionable, but it seems as though that the more things change the more they stay the same. For all the fame and money that the players garner from their participation in the game it seems a mere pittance when compared to the price they are being asked to pay.

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