No player's brain should be like scrambled eggs
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
For those of us who sit comfortably on the fringes of pro football, it's an exciting game that gives us everything we need: an exhilarating blend of world-class athleticism, breathless violence and flashy pageantry. We're the witnesses to this modern gladiator sport whose greatest investment is fanatical emotion and the occasional devotion to the point spread.
But when it comes to our relationship with football, we are sort of like the chicken and its contribution to a hearty egg-and-bacon breakfast. The chicken merely provides the egg.
But since the pig provides that bacon slab as a result of a butcher's blade whacking off its hindquarters, that would make the pig a bit more committed than the chicken.
In the NFL, the players can surely relate to swine. We might think we love the NFL, but the players are the ones who are physically committed. They're the ones who are taking physical risks while we boo and hiss or wave a few pompoms. They break bones and shred ligaments. They're the ones who too often have their brains scrambled in brutal collisions that we euphemistically call "having your bell rung," but medical folks more accurately describe as the devastating process of having your brain slammed violently around the inner casing of your skull wall.
So that's why I personally have no problem with Rams quarterback Marc Bulger's honesty and caution when reporters asked about his status for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Bulger has been trying to recover from his latest concussion for nearly two weeks, and on Wednesday made it clear that despite being given clearance by team physicians to practice, he wasn't ready to rush blindly back into game action.
When someone asked if he would be starting Sunday, Bulger said, "I wouldn't say that. I haven't been able to do anything for the last 10 days. There was a baseline test. I passed that. That was just to get me back on the practice field. Believe me, I'm the No. 1 person — I'm hoping I get cleared this week to play. (But) it will be premature to say on Wednesday, after one practice ... that I'm the starter."
I'm not sure what most people's reactions were to Bulger's cautiousness. But I know what it should be.
Concussions are nothing to fool around with. In professional boxing, in most states, if a boxer suffers a concussion, sanctioning bodies won't allow the boxer to participate in a match for at least 30 days. In the NFL — at least until recent years — there never was such caution. Players could go back into games after they "got their bell rung."
They do it, and they were labeled as tough guys.
But the truth is, that toughness was a dangerous mistake.
The culture of football at every level requires a macho disregard for injuries. You're taught at an early age to rub some dirt on it and get back in there. Hall of Fame legends are made of men such as Jack Youngblood, who played with a broken leg in the playoffs, and Ronnie Lott, who had doctors amputate the tip of his finger rather than be forced to the sideline.
Too often what we don't see, and probably wouldn't glorify if we did see it, were the institutional cover ups that put these gladiators back on the field without full disclosure of the dangerous long-term affects of playing hurt. "You gotta play hurt" is becoming as archaic a concept in the NFL as leather helmets, as players begin to take more ownership of their long-term health and take it out of the hands of the team.
The dark secret of the lasting effects of repeated concussions is now being brought out into the light, and it's no longer a stigma attached to a player if he refuses to rush blindly back into the action. All they have to do is see the videotapes of any of those "Gridiron Greats" news conferences, where retired NFL war horses are telling horror stories about how the NFL and the players association has abandoned them with inadequate medical benefits now that they're out of the game.
I've been to some of those news conferences. I've talked to many retired players who now hobble around with mangled bodies and some, sadly, with minds lost in a fog of dementia that may have been caused by repeated football-related concussions.
The price of football glory should never be that expensive.
Re: No player's brain should be like scrambled eggs
Nice job, Wraith.
However, the things the players do for "glory" or a paycheck go beyond playing with concussions.
Artificially enlarging their muscle mass (steroids) for the opportunity to get into the NFL (or just about any pro sport) or trying to retain their job (and pay check) leads to many of of the injuries we see, IMHO.
It was suggested to me to try some OTC supplements to help my body to recover more quickly from some of the exertions of my job. Upon trying it I found I did "bulk up" but am not sure it made me feel better or stronger. It was a short-lived experiment for me.
The very good to great players can afford to take time off to heal, the borderline players may feel they HAVE to play to keep their job from the young bucks trying to wedge their way into a starting job.
I wonder what power the Union has in this matter, if any.
A player cannot lose their job if on IR but can reach a settlement with the club and then be released then try to sign on with another club. That is my understanding anyway.