By now you have picked up all the wrapping paper from under the tree and are finally putting the holidays behind you. If you are good, the tree is long gone. We all survived the endless bowl games and even movie releases.
A big movie for football came out during Christmas called “Concussion.” I know most of us will be watching Star Wars, but “Concussion” will be something to watch if you are a football fan.
Surprise, surprise, it doesn’t cast a good light on the National Football League.
But, what should we take away from the film besides that Will Smith is an excellent actor? What is the real message of the film?
It’s the story about accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu of Pittsburgh and how he uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play.
In the story, Omalu, while conducting an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers’ star football player Mike Webster, discovers neurological deterioration that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Omalu calls the disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy and publishes his findings. The doctor finds that what he discovered in Webster may be something that many other players could be suffering from. He takes it upon himself to speak out about the dangers of football-related head trauma.
The doctor was shocked to find the NFL could care less about his findings. He actually thought they would take action to help save the lives of football players and protect them from injury. Instead, they did everything in their power to bury the findings.
I think we should know that despite the powerful NFL trying to squash the findings, people have listened.
So the disease comes out and the NFL is now forced to change. But really, what has changed?
Change could have come from the NFL but it didn’t, it came from all the youth that play and love the sport.
This disease has been out for a while and the game is still being played, as it should be. And by all means the message is not that football should not be played, rather that it can be made safer to play at all levels.
So I give credit to the thousands of others in various organizations that work for far lower salaries than the NFL. Kudos to organizations like the National Federation of High Schools and the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association for coming out with tough concussion protocols and actually caring for the players that play the game. I would also like to give credit to Pahrump Valley and Nye County football coaches. In Pop Warner football, Pop Warner coach Dave Wright followed the Trojans football coach Adam Gent and changed the way kids learn to tackle. Like Gent, high school football coaches throughout Nye County have also introduced new tackling methods that keep the head out of the equation.
Gent uses a method sponsored by Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks.
And despite the NFL, Carroll took it upon himself to change the way the game is played. He has worked hard to pass his methods on to college football. Since the findings of CTE have come out, Carroll has done everything he could to make the game much safer for his players and thousands of others. Coaches at the college level, like Urban Meyer, are also adopting Carroll’s ways of tackling.
The Seahawk method uses the shoulder to drive through the legs of the opposing player, thus taking the head out of the game.
Carroll was inspired by the low numbers of head injuries in rugby and borrowed their tackling method.
Where there is a will there is a way and we can be thankful to thousands of football coaches who saw it has a challenge to improve the game.
I know the NFL didn’t see it that way. To them, they just saw tons of lawsuits coming their way which blinded them from thinking outside the box. So instead of taking the high road, they took the low road, which is not surprising.
-Contact sports editor Vern Hee at firstname.lastname@example.org