New treatment for concussions helps at least one former player

When our good friend Alex Marvez of forwarded a few days ago his new story regarding the post-football struggles of former NFL tight end Cam Cleeland, I was leery.  It has become fashionable of late for former players to publicly complain after the fact about the head trauma they suffered while earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (or more), and we rarely hear about the many former NFL players who live their lives without difficulty or disability of any kind.

Our biggest problem with such cases is that we’re certain that most if not all of the former players would have signed up to play football even if they had been told in chapter-and-verse detail about the risks they were assuming by strapping on a hat and then banging it into stuff.

But Marvez’s story is one of the few that contains some hope for players who have reached the point in their lives where the risks have come to fruition.  Cleeland has obtained evaluation and treatment from Dr. Daniel Amen, who used nutrition and supplements to improve problem areas spotted in Cleeland’s brain via a nuclear imaging scan of it.

“Rehabilitating brain trauma is my goal,” Amen told Marvez.  “Think of these
players like police officers or firefighters.  We know it’s a dangerous
job, and we own up to it.  It’s the same thing for these players.”

Cleeland, who spent eight years in the league with the Saints, Patriots, and Rams, also acknowledges that he has no second thoughts about playing football.  He does regret, however, the former culture of telling a player he has gotten his “bell rung” and putting him back in the game.  Fueled by a Congressional interest in head injuries that arose last year, the NFL has made significant changes to the handling of players who have suffered concussions.  (It came too late, but it was better late than never.)

Still, the risk exists.  The players know it, now more than ever.  But they accept that risk, because for every Cam Cleeland there are many players who have harvested the rewards and emerged from their playing careers without long-term consequences.

The goal, obviously, should be to get to the point where there are no Cam Cleelands.  Our ongoing concern is that if/when the efforts to get there result in fundamental changes to the game that make it less interesting to the public, everyone loses.

15 responses to “New treatment for concussions helps at least one former player

  1. I do agree that some of these ex-players who rally against the league because of injuries they’ve sustained is a bit disingenuous. Unless they were playing in the 1950s, the risks of multiple concussions and playing before a concussion has ‘healed’ have been well known for awhile now.
    I do think some sort of an insurance plan for retired vets would be great. They should also be forcing everyone to use those oversize helmets. They look stupid, but if everyone wore then no one would care. I read an article on this off season about Rams’ OT Jason Smith (selected 2 overall in 2009 I believe) got a concussion early on in the season and they just kept him out the rest of the season as a precaution and he’ll be wearing the concussion helmet this year. Hopefully they make those mandatory (Why NOT?) or at least that players will be more willing to use them after their first concussion.
    Hockey makes strides every year in safety equipment for the players, why hasn’t the NFL updated it’s equipment in ages?

  2. Florio, honestly, as a man who fancy’s himself as educated, this article is extremely dangerous and thoughtless. You make light constantly of the injuries that a large number of football players have to deal with.
    When you say things like, “It has become fashionable of late for former players to publicly complain after the fact about the head trauma they suffered while earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (or more), and we rarely hears about the many former NFL players who live their lives without difficulty or disability of any kind…” you are essentially doing the same thing that old school coaches used to do. You make light of a serious situation to what, say guys should be tougher and suck up the brain trauma?
    As a person who has suffered concussions playing football and in the everyday world, they are serious. Guys aren’t coming forward to be fashionable, they are finally coming forward because the stigma around injuries is starting to fade. Your thoughtless words in this article was essentially saying, “If you get hurt, suck it up pussy, because you make money.”
    Go die.

  3. I don’t know why, in this age of high technology, a helmet can’t be devised that significantly decreases the risk of concussion.
    One thing I think should be explored – and it would decrease the risk of injuries to players beyond concussion – is a helmet that is soft and shock absorbent on the OUTSIDE as well as the inside. This seems a no-brainer, eh, or something like that.
    Just sayin’. I can’t believe this hasen’t already happened.

  4. Whether former players would have played with full understanding of the longtime brain-trauma risks is completely irrelevant. If there is a connection (and there seems to be), it’s a big problem for the NFL. It should be viewed as a threat to the game. Anything less than that is irresponsible on the NFL’s part.

  5. Exactly what type of ‘nutrition and supplements’ are supposed to heal brain tissue?
    This is a fraud and I am surprised you are touting it here.

  6. “Think of these players like police officers or firefighters. We know it’s a dangerous job, and we own up to it. It’s the same thing for these players.”
    And in all three cases the person voluntarily chooses that line of work. They aren’t forced into it and could choose from a myriad of careers, yet they chose a dangerous career knowing full well what the risks are.

  7. Maybe you should talk to some military personnel returning from Iraq and getting fit with prosthetics. Or talk to the families of those that don’t return at all. Hate hearing these players whine.
    The only good that will come from the NFL awareness is having it trickle down to the high school and Pop Warner level.
    Porytraying these players as victims or pioneers leading the way is a joke though.

  8. very good article…i work w/alot of guys who have concussive type injuries – and i 100% agree that it’s part of the job – but good to see treatment options presented & studied to improve their situations…

  9. Start with having every player use the Maher mouthguard if your goal is to reduce concussions. Follow that up with the oversized helmet mentioned above. Then commission those with no affiliation with the league to start from scratch with safer equipment – not just helmets, but shoulder pads and maybe a better way to protect knees too.
    Lastly, as part of the new CBA, a portion of the revenue needs to be set aside for health care for retired players. The position that Gene Upshaw took, that he did not represent retired players, was ridiculous. Every current player is a soon to be former NFL player.

  10. Some writer on another site interviewed a doctor who said Ben Roethlisberger’s recent history of poor social behavior (which goes well beyond his assault allegations) is indicative of someone who has suffered a frontal lobe injury. He explained that such a trauma can impair a person’s judgement skills and impulse control. Keep in mind, that knucklehead racked his brain in that motorcycle accident in which he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Sounds like he should call this doctor. ‘Amen’ to that… Would be interesting to know if Roethlisberger had a similar personality before the accident, but that part of the story wasn’t reported on.

  11. How can you sling BS about players willingly signing up for brain trauma and mock that after they complain about what has happened to them? The athlete you profiled said it best. He’s pissed that the team and the league played down the risk of going back out on the field too soon and not testing for injuries they then could treat. Were you not critical of the coal mine operators who chose not to spend money on safety measures after miners were blown to bits? The NFL didn’t want to bother with it all, spend the dough it would take to take care of these guys and has always been afraid of long term liability.

  12. Heavily padded helmets would look really weird at first, but they would save lives. The “They signed up for a dangerous task so tough shit” argument reeks of robber barons laughing as coal workers routinely died in mines. A civilized society dictates that the safety level for workers must constantly be improved. NFL owners should not be rolling around naked in billions of dollars while their former employees stare drooling unblinkingly at walls.

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