Plenty of players will still hide concussions in order to keep playing


As the league tries to improve the protocol for diagnosing concussions during games, the NFL continues to wrestle with a basic reality that exists at every level of the sport.

Football players want to play football.  Thus, they’ll be inclined to try to hide a concussion if it means being allowed to continue to play football.

In a series of 44 Associated Press interviews with current players, 23 of them said they would hide a concussion in order to stay in the game.  Some said they already have.

But more than two-thirds of the players interviewed also said they would like to see an independent neurologist on the sidelines at games.

“They’ve got guys looking at your uniform to make sure you’re wearing the right kind of socks,” Rams safety Quintin Mikell said. “Why not have somebody there to protect your head?  I think we definitely should have that.”

Mikell also said he has hidden concussions to keep playing, and that he accepts the risks of the life he has chosen.

“I’ll probably pay for it later in my life,” Mikell said.  “But at the same time, I’ll probably pay for the alcohol that I drank or driving fast cars.  It’s one of those things that it just comes with the territory.”

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the NFL’s leading rusher, agreed that he’d hide a concussion in order to keep playing.

“The bottom line is: You have to be able to put food on the table,” Jones-Drew said.  “No one’s going to sign or want a guy who can’t stay healthy.  I know there will be a day when I’m going to have trouble walking.  I realize that.  But this is what I signed up for.  Injuries are part of the game. If you don’t want to get hit, then you shouldn’t be playing.”

And that captures the essence of the league’s current dilemma.  Most players will assume the risks of concussions in order to keep playing, both in the short term and over the long haul.  But if the league doesn’t do enough to protect them from themselves while they’re playing, some of them will sue the league after their careers end, claiming that the league should have done more.

It should make for interesting arguments as the pending concussion lawsuits unfold, given that the NFL could choose to try to defend itself by developing evidence (likely through expert testimony) that some players who claim that they suffered long-term injuries due to concussions would have hidden concussions, even if the NFL had done more to protect them.  Then again, the former players likely will argue that, if the NFL had been fully candid about the true harm that can be done by head injuries, they would have realized that concussions shouldn’t be hidden.

That said, if more than half of 44 players interviewed at a time when the risks are fully known would still hide concussions, plenty of the players who are now suing the league surely would have hidden concussions, even if the league had better procedures in place before 2009.

26 responses to “Plenty of players will still hide concussions in order to keep playing

  1. wow. sounds like mikell and MJD are intelligent and have the appropriate perspective. but its still hard to hear a young man say he knows he’ll have trouble walking in the future because of what he’s doing now in the NFL.

  2. No one needs to be “protected from themselves”.

    This belief has formed the backbone of our nanny state, the belief that citizens are children who can’t be trusted not to put their hand in the flame on the stove.

    I agree that there should be an independent neurologist available to the players during the game, should the PLAYER so choose to utilize him/her.

    Players should sign a waiver saying that if they choose to conceal concussion symptoms or refuse to be examined, it is their problem. Teams should only be held liable for putting obviously concussed players back on the field.

    If a player makes a conscious effort to conceal symptoms (and a mildly concussed player could) and steers clear of the neurologist on the sideline, he takes responsibility for the consequences.

  3. Football is not more important than your life. You [should] have a long life after football. Don’t ruin it because of a game.

  4. A few days ago I read about a player who is 30 years old and is already having memory issues.

    Aren’t a lot of older playing having health and financial issues? Hire those players to talk to today’s players about some of the health issues they are going through.

  5. Firefighters know there is an inherent risk to their job, police officers also know that they incur a risk…. same applies here. It’s part of the GAME OF FOOTBALL. If you want the millions of dollars and fame that often comes associated with playing in the NFL then you need to adapt to the game, the game should not adapt to you. If you don’t want to assume the risk, then don’t play, and put that “communications” degree that you never really earned to use someplace else.

  6. Put food on the table?? If you’d bank some of that multi-million dollar contract instead of buying 10 cars and 4 mansions, you could feed your family for the rest of your life.

  7. I’d do the same thing in the heat of the moment even though its not the smartest thing to do..

  8. Talk about biting the hand the feeds you. I hate that all these ex-players are suing the league. I don’t for a moment believe that league/team officials knowingly, intentionally put players at risk outside of the obvious dangers that go along with a violent sport. That we as a society now know of the long term health issues that can come from repeated concussions should not entitle player’s from the , ’70s, ’80’s and ’90’s with huge sums of money. Everyone worked off a set of assumptions at the time. Everything else is 20/20 hindsight. There is a reason NFL players make a ton of money and have for many years. Far more than the average person. So to turn around now and cry foul is wrong.

  9. If I were a player, I would. It would be stupid in many ways, but I’ve got a long list of stupid sh** I did when I was young. And when it also comes to supporting your family with a job that may only last 3 years? I’d hide injuries every chance I could.

  10. They all know it’s part of life in the NFL, and now years later several dozen (out of thousands) are trying to say they didn’t know the risks, or weren’t taken care of. Money grab more than anything if you ask me….

  11. I’m sick of these players talking about “keeping” or “putting” food on the table. You make enough money to live off of in your first year. It should no longer be a struggle to provide.

  12. Hockey players are no different, it’s like smoking, regret will only sink it years later when you actually see your health affected.

    And it’s their choice. I understand the NFLPA, Owners and Rule Committee reasoning for the testing and I understand that players will dodge it.

  13. Also, how do you get around the fact that you have the right to refuse medical treatment? I think it should be up to the player. Have them sign a waiver. Think about Ronnie Lott cutting off the tip of his finger to keep playing. Would that be allowed under the new rules as well? I have been in sports and suffered a concussion and kept playing, it is a part of the game as everyone says.

  14. I used to have alot of respect for Pocket Hercules… Now, all i can say is he suffers from Latrell Sprewell syndrom… “The bottom line is you have to be able to put food on the table”… really? Are you kidding me? You make how many millions per year, and your scared if your out of football in a couple years that you won’t be able to put food on the table? Really? Wow, another DeSean Jackson here or what? You guys that are making all of this money should maybe have graduated with an accounting degree, or possibly hired a good investment consultant. My gosh, it sounds like he already has a concussion. Or his brain has been banged around so badly that he can’t think clearly… Buddy, there’s no reason to have the ferrari, when the ford will get you there. What an idiot! I’m not hoping he get’s hurt, but i hope the bum is out of football in 2 years and bagging my groceries!

  15. Football is not more important than your life. You [should] have a long life after football. Don’t ruin it because of a game.

  16. Seems like my assumption of the average NFL’s players IQ being low was way off. Its lower. I get a 3rd string safety hiding a concussion worried about putting food on the table. But someone like Jones-Drew? The dude got a 9 mil signing bonus. Take half out for taxes for 4.5 mil and put it in a friggin savings account. So at worst he would have 150k a year to live off of if football had ended right there and then for him. Thats plenty of food on the table.

  17. “But if the league doesn’t do enough to protect them from themselves while they’re playing, some of them will sue the league after their careers end, claiming that the league should have done more.”

    There in lies the problem… You can pass any rule you want, or make any proclamation you want. Every player knows this is a violent game. I retired from the military, I knew it was a dangerous profession when I joined. So did the coal miner, the fire-fighter and the policeman. Just ask any Doctor if you want to hear about a lawyers true worth…

  18. There is enough information, technology, and resoureces at these players disposal to know the ramifications of playing with a head injury. When they committ a crime you say “they are grown men and know better”….So why shouldn’t the same apply to playing injured?

  19. Can’t we get over the concussion talk? These guys are compensated monetarily for the risk. Unless you want the nfl to play without helmets, concussions will happen. That being said, all the concussion talk is ruining the game. Moms don’t want their kids to play youth football anymore because they may get a concussion. Even at the pro level, the game is morphing into two hand touch. In a few years, all this concussion nonsense will kill the game we all know and love. Its already started to.

    There are plenty of jobs that men do in America that have inherent dangers associated with them and for a lot less money.

    College players get compensated with a free education. nfl players get paid millions of dollars…if they don’t want to risk concussion, they can opt to be safe by working in a cubicle for $30,000 per year.

    Everyone involved knows the risk. I think most of America would risk a concussion or two for a multi million dollar payday.

    The press focuses on the small minority who have post concussion problems. Instead of the multitude of players who have had a concussion and suffer no problems later in life.

    Anyone who has played the game, even High School players, have gotten their “bell rung.” 99% live normal lives today.

    Your constant focus on the concussions will only end up ruining the game. We all know the risk and so do the players. Lets let them make the decision with their own futures.

  20. And those players that will hide concussions are also known as MEN.

    This is a sport for MEN. These are the gladiators of our time and we’re trying to neuter them.

    Let them play, let them make their own decisions.

  21. These guys aren’t children. The suggestion that the league has to protect them from themselves is typical lawyer big brother talk.

  22. The ignorance and cruelty of some of you “fans” is jaw dropping. Most players last 3-4 years and make the league minimum. Most have no real skills outside of football. Most are kids. Most have life long health problems with insane health insurance premiums. But, yeah, nothing but hookers and mansions all around.ah … mansions and hookers all over.

    Some of you are the most ignorant, uncaring, jealous, hideous POS’s around. God help your children.

  23. Over regulation trying to eliminate risk will ruin the NFL the same way it is ruining the U.S.A…..One is being done by the league officials, one by Congress. The common thread? Lawyers in charge…..

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