Merril Hoge has been outspoken on the subject of brain injuries in the NFL since long before it became one of the major issues surrounding the league in the last few years. Hoge’s career was cut short after he had multiple concussions in 1994, and he successfully sued the Bears and their team doctor over the way his concussions were treated during his final NFL season.
But while Hoge is concerned about players suffering brain injuries on the field, he takes strong issue with those who say that concussions are so dangerous that children shouldn’t play football. And on ESPN’s NFL Live, Hoge went off on Kurt Warner, who said on Thursday that he wouldn’t want his kids playing football before later backing away from those comments.
“I think it’s irresponsible and unacceptable,” Hoge said of Warner suggesting that football is a dangerous game for children. “He has thrown the game that has been so good to him under the bus. He sounds extremely uneducated.”
In Hoge’s view, parents can’t just put their children in bubble wrap and ensure they’ll never suffer a concussion, but what they can do is ensure their children will get proper treatment and adequate time off if they ever do suffer a concussion. And Hoge says that children playing in youth leagues that follow the proper concussion guidelines are actually playing a safer sport than youth football players of times past played.
“Head trauma is not the issue here — it’s how head trauma is treated,” Hoge said. “The game is safer than it has ever been because we’re being proactive with head trauma. That is the biggest issue.”
Hoge believes that football is a great game for kids to play, and that it’s wrong for Warner to suggest otherwise.
“I can’t believe that he would share that message because now moms and dads that are out there, and Billy wants to play, but they are uneducated and they are unsure, and they love Kurt Warner, they’re like, ‘He doesn’t want his kids to play? Why should I let my kids play?’”
Hoge said responsible parents should make sure their children’s coaches are following the concussion protocols as outlined by USA Football, but the last thing they should do is tell their kids not to play a sport that gives them great physical benefits.
“The biggest problem in our society today with our youth is obesity,” Hoge said. “You will do more damage to your son or daughter by allowing them to sit on the couch, play XBox and eat a donut, health-wise, than you will ever do if you put them on a football field and it’s in the right structure. You think of obesity and all the things that come from that — diabetes and lung and heart and joint issues, we can go on and on — the last thing we should do is discourage children from activity.”