Center Jeff Hartings played 11 years in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers while twice being named an All-Pro and earning a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers in 2005.
The idea of concussions being a significant injury was a completely foreign thought for most of Hartings’ career in the league. It was something the players didn’t take seriously and would purposefully try to circumvent to keep playing. Now that he is coaching football himself, Hartings more readily sees the impact concussions can have on the football field.
Hartings joined Alex Marvez and Vic Carucci on the Late Hits show on Sirius XM NFL radio from the “Heads Up Football” symposium in Canton, Ohio to discuss his experience with concussions. The symposium is a gathering of over 100 coaches that discuss how to improve football safety.
Hartings said he was discussing the matter with former Buffalo Bills defensive end Phil Hansen about how the players initially took to the idea of concussion tests when it first was introduced to the NFL.
“We were talking about this impact concussion test,” Hartings said. “I remember it came out in ’05 or ’06, right when I was retiring basically and it was kind of a joke. Nobody really took it seriously. We just kind of complained about having to do it – faked our way through it.”
Hartings is coaching now and said he had six or seven kids on his team suffer concussions last year. He said one kid had to spend a week in the hospital because of the injury. The experience helped drive home the seriousness of concussions to Hartings.
“I think the publicity has helped the NFL and helped everyone come around and start teaching us about the significant impact a concussion can have on you long-term and short-term,” Hartings said.
“The other thing that I learned this week and through that experience is you have to take concussions seriously. It’s a part of the game. I don’t want to make a comparison to a sprained ankle but when a player sprains his ankle you sit him out. When he injures his brain, you need to sit him out and you’ve got to take that even more seriously and make sure when they come back they’re fully ready to come back.”
Hartings believes the injuries can be handled properly so that the long-term effects of concussions aren’t problematic and coaches have adequate knowledge of how to deal with concussions when they arise.
“If we handle these injuries the proper way, as a mother you have no reason to be concerned about your son playing football,” Hartings said. “As a matter of fact, I believe that the rewards far outweigh the risks.”