Emmitt Smith on playing with concussions: Would I do it again? Yes

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The NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards admits he sometimes played when, if he were thinking only of his physical health, he should have stayed on the sideline. But he doesn’t regret it.

Emmitt Smith, who is now 45 years old and a decade removed from his final season, says that he has conflicting feelings because there’s sometimes a conflict between helping your team and protecting your health.

“You do it for the sake of the game. You do it for the sake of your teammates. You do it because it’s your team,” Smith said, via the Standard-Times. “Should you be out there? The answer’s probably not. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. But that’s football. That’s the way I was raised. If you can’t play with pain, you can’t play the game.”

Smith says he’s doing fine now but wonders if he’ll still be doing fine years from now. He also said he thinks NFL teams take player health more seriously today than they did when he was playing.

“Head trauma is one of those things where I don’t think anybody should be playing,” Smith said. “A lot of times I came to the sidelines and smelled some ammonia [to] clear the cobwebs. Today that doesn’t happen. I got knocked out in ’98 on Thanksgiving Day. Thank God it was Thanksgiving Day because I had 10 days to recover. Ten days. Now, they keep you out two weeks.”

Actually, players don’t always get two weeks off after concussions; sometimes a player suffers a concussion one week and plays the next. Usually those players are like Smith, eager to help their team win even if at the cost of their health. Some of those players say years later that they wouldn’t do anything differently. Others come to regret it.

37 responses to “Emmitt Smith on playing with concussions: Would I do it again? Yes

  1. Redskin fan here; he ran behind a great line but Emmitt Smith was a great player. Top 3 back all-time but the price he paid.

  2. Maybe that is why he says things like this: ”
    You cannot change the stripes of a leopard.”

  3. And is this the concussions talking or can he still form logical coherent thoughts about such issues ?

  4. He’s a gamer!! These players know the risk, but they want both sides. They want the money, but they don’t want to pay the price. If I was the NFL, I’d have every player sign a waiver, so they know what they are getting themselves into. My guess is over 90% of them still sign up. I know I would, but I’m a gamer as well, just not on the football field!!

  5. Wow! Emmitt Smith’s attitude toward concussions, and such a broad definition of what “playing in pain” means to him, is worrisome–especially considering the tragic suicide CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) -related deaths of Dave Duerson and Junior Seau.

    Just last fall, pbs.org ran the following quote in a related article on their website:

    “Researchers . . . have now examined the brain tissue of 128 football players who, before their deaths, played the game [of football] professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school. Of that sample, 101 players, or just under 80 percent, tested positive for CTE.”

    Hopefully, Emmitt will still be able to communicate his thoughts with similar clarity in another 10 years–even if they are not the kind of advice we would give our children. That is clarity is more more than some of his friends can demonstrate these days.

  6. Millions of dollars with the risk, or minimum wage at WalMart. When you are only skilled enough for these choices, what do you think an athlete would choose?

  7. excessivedrinking says:
    Apr 11, 2015 1:30 PM
    Dumb pick by a dumber franchise.

    Really? Tell me, who are the all time greatest players on your team. Not the entire NFL like Emmitt, just your team.

  8. Emmitt was a smooth runner. He wasn’t the fastest or the strongest, but damn if he wasn’t effective. Definitely one of the all time greats up there with Jerry Rice. I am happy to have had the privilege to watch him play in my lifetime.

    – Eagles Fan.

  9. To be clear, Emmitt does not remember what the question was nor what his response. Emmitt thought he was asking a nice lady for directions.

  10. NFLs commitment to end concussions is about as legit as their play 60 anti obesity campaign. Its nothing more than a PR stunt.

    Edelman was concussed by Chancellor on the final Pats drive and went on to catch the winning TD. He was visbly stubling after the hit, yet he stayed in and owned Simon on the TD play.

    Brandon Lafell commented he thought that Edelman was going to pass out running the next play. Edelman was only tested after the offensive drive had ended.

    Edelman was “cleared” by doctors… after the game Edelman referred to Seattle as St. Louis numerous times to reporters and was visibly shaken to reporters.

    So before you run down Smith for his views, please realize that his view is the norm for the NFL. The play in the superbowl is a prime example that the game is important and the players are expendable.

  11. Truth is, you’re gonna get busted up if you want to play American football. Just wrapping someone up is going to cause damage if it’s done repeatedly. 40 mph collisions do that.

    You really have to choose if you want the millions of dollars – the legacy – or if you want to walk freely as you age. Some even suffer brain damage, while most come out completely unscathed.

    The only way to stop it is to stop football. People who overplay the risk, including the commissioner, are destroying the league.

  12. The vast majority, close to 95%, would not change a thing. The media doesn’t understand that for some reason so they will focus on the small minority and beat that drum for all it is worth.

  13. excessivedrinking says:
    Apr 11, 2015 1:30 PM
    Dumb pick by a dumber franchise.

    Really? Tell me, who are the all time greatest players on your team. Not the entire NFL like Emmitt, just your team.

    Silence….. I thought so. Just another sore loser.

  14. So tired of being told we are suppose to be concerned with football players life after football.

    There are people in the world who put their lives on the line everyday for far less reward. We do not sit around being concerned with them on a daily basis.

  15. The NFL owes a lot to players like this, and in particular Emmitt. He helped build this empire. A true man.

  16. Consequences of head injury at 20+ years of age are different than those 18 and under and still developing.

    Do not confuse the concussion scare with adolescents to the circus concussion crisis in the NFL.

  17. He is being honest about it. The sad thing is that they would all probably respond in the same way until they come down with CTE. Then their story changes and lawsuits ensue.

  18. Most of the all time greatest players in just about every sport seems to have some things in common and Emmitt exhibits most of them..

    1. Student of the game.
    2. Knowledge that the game is bigger then him
    3. Being a member of a successful team is bigger then being a great player.

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