In football as in the military, toughness is celebrated, if not demanded. But both walks of life are learning that toughness has its limits.
And so the NFL has partnered with the U.S. Army and the Marines to help change the attitudes of athletes and troops regarding concussions, according to Rick Maese of the Washington Post.
“It has to start with the kids,” said former NFL running back Brian Westbrook, who gave excellent insight on the concussion question during a recent appearance on PFT Live. “Then they’ll get older and they’ll realize, ‘Hey, this isn’t just part of the sport. It’s way more serious than that and it has to be treated the right way.’”
“We need the two populations to talk to each other about not rubbing dirt on it and going back on the field, about adding a component to the culture that says, ‘It’s okay to go get checked out even if the injury isn’t as visible as a cut,” NFL executive vice president of P.R. Paul Hicks said.
Both the NFL and the military face the challenge of persuading players and troops to walk away from their teammates. ”You hear them saying, ‘I’m not taking myself off the battlefield.’ Why? ‘Because the guy on my left and my right trust that I’ll be there,’” Major General Stephen R. Lanza said. “You heard the same thing from the players. ‘I’m not coming out of the game because I need to help my team.’”
It could take years, maybe decades, to truly change attitudes. Even then, it will be difficult to get players and troops to reconcile the importance of fighting through pain but quickly surrendering to a brain injury. When players and troops will press on even with very real injuries to other parts of their bodies, it will never be easy to get them to pull up when they have a possible problem with the organ from which their will to keep pressing originates.