After years of research and debate, the NFL this season announced new initiatives to protect its players from the effects of concussions. The announcement came 15 years after the NFL’s first concussion committee was formed and shortly after a Congressional hearing on the matter. According to Pro Football Hall of Famer Harry Carson, this progress is long overdue. For years, the league said the issue needed more study, but an NFL spokesman recently acknowledged that “concussions can lead to long term problems.” Why has progress been so slow and who is responsible? Greg Garber examines recent changes in the NFL’s approach to concussions.
“This was an isolated case report on one individual, and people were extrapolating this as it might be an epidemic.” — Dr. Joseph Maroon, member of the NFL’s concussion committee, downplaying the findings of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s who, during the autopsy of 50-year former Steeler Mike Webster, discovered proteins usually found in the very elderly who suffer from dementia
Dr. Joseph Maroon, member of the NFL’s concussion committee, downplaying the findings of Dr. Bennet Omalu in the autopsy of 50-year-old former Steeler Mike Webster. Autopsy results showed that proteins usually found in the very elderly who suffer from dementia were present in Webster’s brain
“There is absolutely no solution. As long as you’re playing the game in the manner in which you are playing the game now, you’re going to have concussions. It is the very nature of the game, and if you change it, it won’t be the game it’s been.” — Harry Carson, Hall of Famer who claims he could have had as many as 18 concussions as a player and thinking the incidence of brain damage in retired NFL players will reach epidemic proportions
“In his mind, and it does sound sick, he thought it would be better to tase himself or to have his son tase him so he could, you know, get sleep, get rest, go without pain for a few minutes.” — Garrett Webster, the late Mike Webster’s son
Panel Discussion on Concussions and the NFL
Following the piece, Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and former offensive tackle Kyle Turley, seventh overall pick by the Saints in 1998, and Peter Keating, who has covered the concussion issue for ESPN The Magazine, will discuss the topic with Outside the Lines host Bob Ley. Hillenmeyer is among more than a dozen NFL players who have pledged to donate their brain and spinal cord tissue for concussion research, while Turley has committed to help the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine.
Excerpt: “On the cusp of this season’s ultimate game between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, Harry Carson and others are reflecting on the unavoidable outcome of this game: Brains are bruised. NFL players are well compensated, but these mercenaries, literally butting heads for the entertainment of the masses, also pay a price. The physical damage that can later lead to hip replacements and disc surgery and a daily diet of pain killers is easy enough to see. The neurological damage is more insidious.”
“It’s your body that you give up for playing the game, and people come, they buy their beer, hot dogs, popcorn and they cheer. They don’t know the s— that you have to go through long after the game is over.” – Harry Carson
Politicians are getting involved in a national movement to impose stricter guidelines for youth sports through “return-to-play” initiatives at the state level. Bell, an ESPN.com analyst, is a physical therapist, a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist.
Security and anti-terrorism experts say the increased security planned for South Florida’s Sun Life Stadium on Sunday is a precursor of what’s to come at all NFL stadiums and other sports venues across the nation in the next few years. Paula Lavigne reports.
In 1967, the inception of the New Orleans football franchise coincided with the recent creation of a more obscure unit — Charlie’s Saints Marching Club, a group of fans formed by New Orleans bar owner Charlie Kertz. When the Saints finally won their first game after an 0-7 start, “Kertz’s Crazies” paraded through the neighborhood and a tradition was born. For much of the Saints’ history, wins have been hard to come by, but Kertz’s Marching Club never abandoned its team. Though Kertz died in 2002, his comrades remember him as Charlie’s Saints Marching Club celebrates its team’s first Super Bowl appearance. ESPN.com’s Greg Garber finds out more about the club’s history and its plans for Super Bowl XLIV as the Saints – finally — go marching in.
“When they came back in 2006, there were people sitting in that stadium living in a little trailer. They didn’t have a house, but the Saints gave them the hope that things can come back, and things can be positive, and we can finally be winning. It may be silly for people to think a football team can give hope, but not here. It’s reality.” – Joan Serpas
“They would take the pots and pans out of the kitchen, and the spoons, and everybody would just kind of grab an instrument and start marching around the block just banging and making noise and celebrating the victory.” – Terry Crapanzano
In 2007, through the Brees Dream Foundation, Saints quarterback Drew Brees met young Micah Roshell who was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They stayed in touch and found strength in their friendship, a strength 12-year-old Micah relies on as he continues his battle against cancer. Days after the Saints playoff win over Arizona Brees went to Micah’s hospital room and delivered the game ball, which stayed with Micah as he underwent a second bone marrow transplant. As New Orleans heads to its first Super Bowl, Brees says, “There’s nobody that I would rather win for than Micah Roshell.”
The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap (Friday, 10 p.m. ESPN Radio) Colts wide receiver Pierre Garçon was born in New York and raised in Florida, but he is the son of Haitian immigrants, speaks Creole and still has family living on the small island. When Haiti was devastated by last month’s earthquake, Garçon anxiously awaited word from his family while working to raise awareness of the nation’s plight. After the Colts’ AFC Championship win over the Jets, Garçon draped the Haitian flag on the trophy stand as a tribute. Rachel Nichols reports.
Longhorns center Dexter Pittman is a big man on the court, but his profile was once much larger – he weighed nearly 400 pounds in high school. With the help of Texas strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright, Pittman has shed nearly 100 pounds. Now, as a 6’10”, 290-pound senior, Pittman is a dominant low post force for Texas and his transformation is an inspiration to many. Jenn Brown reports.
“I woke up and got here (to work out) at 5 a.m. He (coach Wright) said ‘We’re going to do this the whole summer. We’re going to get you here an hour earlier than everybody else gets here.’ So I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to do this.’ But I had lost 10 pounds in one week. I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this.’ ” – Dexter Pittman
Matt Ellis, a 38-year-old human resources staffing specialist from Indiana, so loves the Indianapolis Colts that a few years ago he set out on a mission to get an autograph from each member of the Colts Super Bowl XLI-winning roster. Ellis’ task is well underway – he has 34 of the 53 autographs he has been seeking. But Ellis doesn’t display the prized signatures in a scrapbook or a picture frame — he wears them. In a most unusual display of fan devotion, Ellis has the autographs penned on his body and then turned into tattoos. Chris Connelly has the story.
“For those people out there that think I’m crazy for getting these permanently inked on me, it’s about the journey that I’m going through. The moments that I get to share with each and every single one of the Super Bowl champs out there, it’s that one-on-one time that I get to cherish with them. I’ll forever remember those moments.” – Matt Ellis