As more and more players joined the concussion-suit parade earlier this year, the involvement of tailback Tony Dorsett was for some (and absolutely for me) a sit-up-and-take-notice moment. Years after his retirement, Dorsett’s annual stroll onto the stage at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton sparks chatter that he looks like he could still suit up and play the game, right now.
But the body rarely reveals what’s actually happening inside the brain, and Dorsett explains that he definitely experiences the effects of at least five concussions sustained while playing pro football, and that he’s doing all he can to keep it from getting worse.
“There are some good days and there are some bad days,” Dorsett told the Beaver County (Pa.) Times earlier this week, in connection with the 20th annual Tony Dorsett/McGuire Memorial Celebrity Golf Classic. “So I am being proactive instead of inactive.”
Dorsett works out regularly and eats well, and he’s considering experimentation wit a hyperbaric chamber, a device Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin recently said he may use to assist with the health of his brain.
“I can slow the process down . . . there’s optimism about that,” Dorsett said. “I feel if I can slow it down, I can stop it. I’m not waiting to see if I’ll be nonfunctional.”
Dorsett believes that the concussion lawsuits, which now involve more than 2,200 players, eventually will be settled by the league. And as to one of the NFL’s expected defenses — that even if players had been fully warned about all risks of concussions they still would have wanted to play — Dorsett begs to differ.
“Would I have risked my health years ago and gone back on the football field after a concussion if I knew there would be percussions in the future?” Dorsett said. “Hell no!”
He points specifically to a game against the Eagles in 1984. After absorbing what he called “the hardest hit I ever took,” Dorsett was evaluated by doctors and cleared to return to play.
At age 58 and with daughters as young as eight and 13, Dorsett worries about the future. “[T]here’s a chance I might not be functional when my daughters have kids and I’ll be a grandfather,” Dorsett said.
Many will say that’s part of the risk that he assumed by playing football. Still, Dorsett’s situation highlights the fact that, at each level of the game, every reasonable step should be taken to reduce the risks that a football player assumes when fastening a chin strap and running onto the field. Though the risks can never be eliminated, they can — and should — be minimized.