Calvin Johnson: “Of course” I had concussions I hid from the doctors

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Calvin Johnson was a quiet guy during his playing career, but he has plenty to say in retirement.

Johnson, the former Lions receiver who said yesterday that he didn’t like how the team treated him when he retired, also had some interesting things to say about concussions.

Asked if he ever concealed a concussion from team doctors, Johnson answered, “Of course.”

They’re going to dispute that, but anytime you black out, anytime you hit the ground and everything is stars and stuff, any time your brain hits your skull, that’s a concussion,” Johnson said, via the Detroit Free Press. “No matter how severe it is, it’s a concussion. Now granted, some people get nausea. That’s a severe concussion when you get hit like that and you get nausea and stuff like that. But if you play football long enough [you’re going to have concussions].”

Tom Brady’s wife said last week that he had a concussion last season, which the NFL says was never diagnosed. Johnson said players frequently don’t get diagnosed by team doctors because they don’t want to miss any playing time.

“Guys get concussions, they don’t tell the coaches,” Johnson said. “It happens. I don’t tell the coach sometimes cause I know I got a job to do. The team needs me out there on the field. And sometimes you allow that to jeopardize yourself, but that’s just the nature of the world.”

As the NFL has mandated removing players from games when they suffer concussions, an unintended consequence is that players who don’t want to leave a game won’t seek medical help if they feel concussion symptoms. Johnson knows that first hand.

73 responses to “Calvin Johnson: “Of course” I had concussions I hid from the doctors

  1. Calvin is absolutely right ….

    “They’re going to dispute that, but anytime you black out, anytime you hit the ground and everything is stars and stuff, any time your brain hits your skull, that’s a concussion,” Johnson said, via the Detroit Free Press. “No matter how severe it is, it’s a concussion.”

    anybody who has “played” the game has probably taken a hit or two where they saw stars … no matter what age they are playing the game … a mild concussion, but a concussion nevertheless …

    and most of the time you don’t tell anyone … because it is seen as a sign of weakness … and you want to play.

  2. I’m sure it happens a lot, but Zolak’s analysis of Brady in 2016 showed only one big headshot on him – just at the start of his late SB 91yd game-tying drive. Brady spoke briefly to the officials, who saw nothing at all of concern. Even if they had, I doubt they’d have pulled him with so little time left in such a big game. And the fact he engineered a perfect drive and OT would kind of suggest he wasn’t concussed.

  3. “but anytime you black out, anytime you hit the ground and everything is stars and stuff, any time your brain hits your skull, that’s a concussion”

    Bingo. Concussion definition.

    “temporary unconsciousness caused by a blow to the head. The term is also used loosely of the aftereffects such as confusion or temporary incapacity”

  4. ————————————————————-
    exinsidetrader says:
    May 21, 2017 6:28 PM
    NFL should put up $10MIL to design a safer helmet.
    ————————————————————-

    $10MIL? Why not the equivalent of what taxpayers will contribute to the new stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders, which is $750MIL! The league needs to face the fact that if they don’t get a handle on concussions, building new stadiums won’t be in their future, regardless of how good they are at cheating working class taxpayers.

  5. It doesn’t take a blow to the head to cause a concussion. Violent whiplash action can cause one too.
    I don’t doubt that Johnson suffered a concussion or three, but it would be very hard to self diagnose.
    Just because you “see stars” doesn’t mean your brain has bounced off of your skull. It’s a VERY inexact science, and we’re learning more every year.

  6. “showed only one big headshot on him ”

    It doesn’t need to be a headshot – you can get a concussion from a violent collision that doesn’t involve the head contacting anything, because of the brain hitting the inside of the skull

  7. There is no solution here.

    The players are not going to voluntarily remove themselves from the action, and it is unthinkable to imagine a league where some guy with binoculars can yank a star player from the field in the SB because he thinks he might be concussed.

  8. Any player stupid enough to lie about their symptoms should never be able to sue the NFL. On one hand they talk about the NFL not watching out for them, then on the other hand they (in their attempt to stay on the field) lie to the people trying to help them.

  9. Remember that QB who got drilled a year or 2 ago and while in the ground grasping his helmet and not a single NFL coach, doctor or official decided to get him checked out. That shows how much the NFL cares about the NFLPA.

  10. “NFL should put up $10MIL to design a safer helmet.”

    There already are several. The problem is they have been designed by companies other than the one that sponsors the league and provides the official NFL helmets.

    And at least one of them has a layer of padding on the outside as well as the inside and wouldn’t look as cool as the hard shells on TV. Another has an additional 2mm layer of silicone gel inside the standard padding.

    Do a search online and you’ll see.

  11. jjb0811 says:
    That shows how much the NFL cares about the NFLPA.
    —-
    Hypocrite.
    We constantly see stories like this one, where players current and former admit they hid concussions in order to stay on the field (while many later try to sue for damages)
    It seems to me as though the NFLPA doesn’t care any more about its members than the NFL does — except perhaps in those cases when there’s something in it for the union.

  12. “On the one hand they talk about the NFL not watching out for them, then on the other hand (in their attempt to stay on the field) they lie to the people trying to help them”.

    This is simply backwards. The past concussion issues were about the NFL covering up conclusive data for decades, not just “not watching out for them”. As far as current day, who are these “people tryiing to help them”? Those oh so reliable team doctors?

  13. harrisonhits2, you can re-design helmets from now until you’re blue in the face and you aren’t going to make a much safer one, silicone gel or otherwise.
    The problem isn’t making a softer helmet on the outside. It’s stopping the brain from sloshing around and slamming against the inside of the skull upon impact.
    A brain is like a human in a moving car, except you can’t install seatbelts around the brain, or airbags inside the skull.
    No matter how soft the helmet — and no matter how much the blow is cushioned on the outside — when a moving head comes to a sudden and violent stop as a result of a collision, the brain sloshes and slams into the skull. Nothing known to man at this time can alter that little law of physics, nor the resulting concussive damage.

  14. Players on the bubble of even being on a roster don’t have much choice but to hide concussions. If they can’t stay on the field when their number is called, they can’t stay on the roster.

    “I better not play anymore today, coach … I think I got a slight concussion on that last play.”

    LMAO at people who pretend the NFL gives a crap about the health of a player’s brain.

  15. It is an impossible situation.

    The NFL does not want the negative publicity of long-term concussion damage. But Players want to get paid, and if they can’t play, they may lose their job ie not get paid.

    Coaches need their best players to be on the field. If they are actually hurt, they are given every opportunity to deny it so they can keep playing. If they are honest and can’t play, then they are going to be replaced with someone desperate enough to risk their health to play, injuries be damned.

    Analysis or not, I am going to assume Brady told his wife he had a concussion. And that’s why she said it. He probably didn’t tell anyone else, except maybe his body coach/nutritionist guru dude. He is obviously a lot more worried about his health than he is.

    The facade fails when someone actually gets hurt with a big hit and its obvious enough that they HAVE to look like they are trying to do something.

    If you ever think a top level Aaron Rodgers/Tom Brady type is going to take a huge hit on a possible game-winning drive, and the refs/independent monitors get to stop the game and have Brady checked out, you are crazy. It will never happen.

    In a hopeless game vs the Ravens Chase Keenum took a massive hit that was obviously a concussion, and nobody did anything.

    Years ago Colt McCoy took a massive hit playing the Steelers and again, was allowed to keep playing. In the typical pointless Steelers/Browns game.

    If the league won’t step in to pull players in meaningless games, they would never stop a Tom-Brady level QB from playing, even if he lined up behind the wrong side of the line.

    Which is why football is likely doomed, I do think either the game changes or the players get more money with some kind of lifelong disability system.

    Or they develop a brain scan that can tell if someone is concussed, and they take the subjective part out. But…they will find out EVERYBODY has a concussion and it will be kicker vs punter to decide the game.

  16. Let’s face it. NFL players are modern day gladiators and football is a tough physical game. Bundchin may not have a great grasp of the english language, but she absolutely knows what’s going on. Good for Johnson for retiring when he was ready. I’m a big Brady fan, but if he wins another next year, I hope he walks away healthy. Seriously, what else is out there for him to prove? He doesn’t need to break Manning’s records and he was never about that.

  17. I think a big issue here is tackling technologies. Forgive me lf I’m overstating this but tackling in the NFL is to try and take out the opposing player by hits to the head. Change the rules and make the penalty game altering. The coaches will get the message real quick. You can call me a die hard fan.

  18. @dregonspengler says “The problem isn’t making softer helmet on the outside.
    It’s stopping the brain from sloshing around…”.

    Now that is some serious medical analysis right there. It’s fairly certain that “sloshing around” isn’t the concussion terminology used medical journals.

    Also, softer helmets will produce less violent collisions with other players and the ground. Better helmets also spread the force of the hit, reducing the impact before reaching the head. All told, helmet improvements lessen the impact of the brain on the inner skull.

  19. Watch him be in a future lawsuit vs the NFL for not protecting players against consussions. Classless clown

  20. exinsidetrader says:
    May 21, 2017 6:28 PM

    NFL should put up $10MIL to design a safer helmet.
    ____________________

    How about the NFLPA? Or do all the dues that players pay go for impeddy dimp hats for Maurice Smith?

  21. @dregonspengler

    You’re correct in a lot of what you say. However while no helmet can stop your brain from sloshing around, the “safer” helmets that are out there have been shown to protect the head/brain at least slightly better than the standard ones the league used.

    I would think even a small increase in the margin of safety would be desirable.

  22. Well, Calvin’s mother Arica is a doctor, so you know she taught him from childhood to take head injuries VERY seriously.

    If he didn’t want to act on it, that is on him.

  23. This is the real culture of the NFL regarding player safety. These guys won’t take themselves out, and I can’t blame them. These guys are chasing bonuses, until the NFL gets rid of that, these guys will keep putting themselves in danger.

  24. No problem, just don’t sue the NFL 5 years from now because THEY didn’t protect you. The trade off for making way more money than any one person deserves is risk. Take the money but YOU take the risk.

  25. Just do away with the whole sport. I am so tired of hearing about these guys and their concussions.
    Boxers and martial arts fighters get concussions all the time. So do race car drivers. No one seems to care too much about them.
    Here’s the deal. Playing football is dangerous for your long term health. There is not one player who isn’t aware of that now. It’s a risk they choose to take.
    If you choose to play football and are fortunate enough to make it to the NFL where you can make more money in 2 or 3 years than the average Joe makes in his lifetime, then so be it. I really don’t care what happens to you down the road because it was your choice. If you want to lessen the risk, get in, get all the money you can in a hurry, and get out. Or, don’t play at all.
    Steve Irwin, the Crockodile Hunter, chose to get dangerously close with poisonous snakes, crocodiles, sharks and other deadly species. He paid the price with his life. I felt very sorry for his wife and children, but wasn’t surprised when I heard the news that he had been killed. The only surprise was how he died.
    I gave him credit for caring about animals and reptiles the way he did, but I thought he was a little crazy for doing some of the things he did to bring drama to his cause.
    I feel the same way about these NFL players. If they suffer long term health problems, it’s all on them.
    They are living a dream with fame and fortune as their reward. Concussions, wrecked knees and backs, and other ailments are all part of the deal.

  26. That’s odd, Damien Woody bragged about faking concussion systems, sensitive to light so he could miss training camp. Two HOFers bragged they knew how to get rest by pulling up lame.

  27. Well spoken “nyneal” I agree with everything you said! I’m tired of hearing about this… you know the risks and were rewarded handsomely! VERY handsomely! You don’t want the $130+ million at 30yrs old to play a game and work out? Don’t play… sure there are risks… but you accepted the checks! How about all the soldiers and first responders that get concussions on the job and do not make even close to what these guys get? We don’t hear about their concussions… how about the average worker that gets hurt daily but can’t afford to pull them self out for the day, week, month or year, let alone retire at 30… they don’t report the injuries either, no one cares about them! Everyone gets hurt on the job, differently yes, but many don’t report it… don’t act like your special… I am a season ticket holder for the lions and I feel this way towards his comments, I always liked and valued him as a player… but all this about the players and injuries is enough! At some point we need to look at a year and determine from that point forward that enough knowledge was known for the players and that point forward to have an educated opinion on what they were getting into! I don’t blame the guys in the 50-80’s once say the mid 90’s rolled around the older players were showing the tolls by then! Risk was known… quit whining and cash a game check that takes me months to make (lowest paid players) to a lifetime if I’m lucky (low end QB) oh and I have an education behind my job!

  28. vancouversportsbro says:
    May 21, 2017 6:31 PM
    You hid from the big moments in big games too.
    ———————

    17-296-2 in 2 playoff games.

    I don’t think averaging 150 yards and a TD in the playoffs is “hiding in big moments in big games.”

    Nor do I think he “hid” from big games when he went on a crazy 36-771-6 in the last 4 games of 2011 to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in a decade.

    (That’s an average of 9-192-1 average per game)

  29. I was thinking the same as nyneal, but he beat me to it. There is a reason why professional players make the cash that they do. Football is a dangerous sport and the risk is very high. If a player doesn’t think running in to another human being at full speed, coming to a sudden stop, and getting thrown to the ground isn’t dangerous…then the shouldn’t be allowed on the field. An easy way to deal with is when it comes to contract signing time, just put it in their contract that what you are doing is known to be dangerous, these are the things that we know can happen, and if these things happen they can effect you in a negative way for the rest of your life. Basically if you sign this contract the NFL isn’t responsible for your busted knees, your cte, or your Parkinson’s that may show up later in life after football. This isn’t hard and is totally voluntary. If they agree and sign then it’s on the player.
    Hearing about dumb stuff like this from adults is getting old. I just signed a paper from my child’s school, they were taking the kids to a trampoline park. My son is 13 and in a nutshell the paper had to be signed or my son would not be able to go. It basically said that if something happened it isn’t the parks responsibility if he does something and gets hurt. The NFL should do the same. Everyone knows football is dangerous and if you play and get hurt…its on you the player…you can choose to play or not.

  30. carltonsaves says:
    May 21, 2017 7:04 PM

    Any player stupid enough to lie about their symptoms should never be able to sue the NFL.
    ————————————————————-
    How will you know who is lying?

  31. nyneal says:
    May 21, 2017 9:04 PM

    Just do away with the whole sport. I am so tired of hearing about these guys and their concussions.
    Boxers and martial arts fighters get concussions all the time.
    ————————————————————
    The amazing part is that the whole purpose of boxing and MMA is to concuss your opponent. If you do, they’ll replay it 50 times, show it on ESPN and cheer like crazy. But football is about to end because of it.

  32. For 11 seasons Calvin Johnson played hard, made a lot of money, and didn’t talk very much. Too bad he won’t let us remember him that way.

  33. It isn’t an “attack on Football”. It’s not like these players are playing for the NFL at gunpoint, their family is being held hostage, or they are in a slavery situation. A MLB pitcher is taking a risk just like a pro golfer takes a risk or a mma fighter takes a risk. You can tear up a shoulder, a back, or in football a brain. The sports are different, but the risk of injury is there. The only difference is the body part and the severity. It really comes down to the player. If money out weighs the risk involved, it’s all on the player not the league the player or fighter participates in voluntarily. It would be nice if a little personal responsibility and common sense would come in to play here.
    If you abuse alcohol and get sick…it’s on you. If you smoke cigarettes and get lung cancer…it’s on you. If walk a tightrope, fall down, and go splat…it’s on you. If you play football and end up with cte…it’s on you. Every one of those things above are things people do by their own choice. I have zero sympathy because people see dollar signs and that out weighs the risk in their eyes until something bad happens. You can’t have it both ways little sensitive snowflakes…that’s life.

  34. That is true but what I find ironic is lately guys like Wayne Walker and others who played with flimsy helmets and played not seven but 10 12 15 years and never once complained or had complications of brain injuries.
    Now with all the equipment and the rule changes these guys are complaining two weeks after they retire. Me thinks the agents and lawyers may be circling more then back in the 60’s.

  35. cadreamer1969 says:
    May 21, 2017 9:34 PM
    That’s odd, Damien Woody bragged about faking concussion systems, sensitive to light so he could miss training camp. Two HOFers bragged they knew how to get rest by pulling up lame.

    ——————————————————————
    Ya and I always suspected a guy named D Jones and Nick P of doing the same when they had a lousy game or were getting their assses handed to them. Faking an ankle injury or hammy is easy and they know how to do it.

  36. Performance for pay has a lot to do with it also, if they have multiple injuries in a pre contract year they can use that to suggest, hey I would have been great that year if it wasnt for those hammies, or hand, or ankle knowing the perf0rmance incentives would not be met that year.

  37. Put a sensor in the helmet, if it gets hit hard enough it tells someome and your out. Or it’s taken too many big hits. It’s gotta be possble with today’s technology!

  38. Deplorable Ernie says:
    May 21, 2017 11:30 PM

    what I find ironic is lately guys like Wayne Walker and others who played with flimsy helmets and played not seven but 10 12 15 years and never once complained or had complications of brain injuries.
    ————————————————————-
    Are you kidding me? How many studies of old time football players have you done to see what condition those guys are in?

  39. The players in the NFL have a better idea of the risks of the sport and do get some money.
    Most only make major money if they make it to the 2nd contract though.

    Then consider everyone who played in high school and college that will never get a shot at the pros or any significant amount of money. There are a lot with major health issues but without NFL money to show for it.

    So you play it because you enjoy it, but mind that it takes a lot of players at every level to find the rare few that can make it in the NFL. And even among them, only a few will be stars.

    Then the career of many players are not that long and contracts aren’t guaranteed.

    Read the book by former Broncos TE/WR Nate Jackson “Slow getting up” to get an idea of the life of a guy always on the bubble of getting cut and how to deal with injuries in that scenario. It isn’t pretty.

  40. There is also the problem of NFL brass not allowing new helmet designs like Mark Kelso ProCaps’ Gladiator helmet to be tried experimentally in the NFL. It had the advantage of a soft outside foam shell,hard second layer and soft padded inner shell. It was lighter than regular helmets which won’t cause players to drop their head in tackles as their necks tire during a game. The only two problems is the Great Gazoo look and the opposition of certain other helmet makers close relationship with the league. Too bad aesthetics and the macho jock mentality of suck it up takes a precedent over brain health.

  41. 1. If you’ve played football at any decent level you’ve had your bell rung. The vast majority of the time you keep playing. Football is the ultimate team game so you play through everything possible to be on the field for teammates.

    2. There are several small companies working on safer helmets. These will never make it into the NFL because these co’s can’t pay the massive licensing deals the league requires.

    3. Helmets are just one part of the equation. If you want less concussions:
    – require mouthpieces for all players- the fact they aren’t is ridiculous
    – require knee and hip pads- lots of concussions occur when a tackler takes a knee to the head. A pad may not eliminate the concussion but it will lessen the blow.

    Basically there needs to be a 3 fold change:

    The culture need to change. This will be the slowest to evolve but more and more players are considering head trauma when making decisions.

    The NFL needs to put money aside for a second and focus on fixing the problem

    The NFLPA needs to be willing to do what’s best for their membership and not always what they want.

  42. Retirement is not treating Calvin Johnson well….he’s automatically turned into a angry old man. The last few days, all he’s done is grip about how the Lions and how the NFL has done him wrong. In my perception was a classy player but now Calvin Johnson had become Clint Eastwood sitting on his front porch being misriable at everybody. But you are enjoying the 100 million you made, right Calvin?

  43. People assume that all of the concussions players get happen during a game. They spend more time on the football field in practice than they do playing games. I realize contact is limited in practice but getting hit, hitting another player or hitting the ground is unavoidable. A player might be more willing to take themselves out of practice if they get a concussion, but does the team have the same obligation to test a player for a concussion received in practice? My thinking is no.

  44. Man these guys must take tremendous hits. I crashed a motorbike going 100mph ( on the racetrack ), highsided and came down on my head. I didnt even get knocked out or see stars. I had a 5″ bruise on my head where I hit ( bald so easily visible ). It frickin hurt really bad for 30 seconds or so but I never had any concussion symptoms. Neck was jacked up for a couple weeks. Either motorcycle helmets are way way better than football, or these guys are taking absolutely brutal hits to the head, or maybe both.

  45. Lots of HOF caliber QBs get in with two pathetic playoff losses and a back up Pro Bowl spot.

    o-16 season

    One playoff win in sixty years

    The Lions waste talent and mistreat their franchise players

  46. Either motorcycle helmets are way way better than football,

    ___________________________________

    A motorcycle helmet is only designed to absorb 1 crash impact before being replaced, so it kinda apples and oranges…

    But yes, for that one impact the mc helmet provides categorically superior protection.

  47. ——————————————-
    lifetimefan says:
    May 22, 2017 6:38 AM
    Wow, not one cheater comment?
    ——————————————

    Cheating and lying go hand-in-hand. Calvin tells the truth. Therefore he doesn’t cheat. Brady, on the other hand, skirts the truth by having his agent babble some nonsense that only a fool would believe is the truth. And, I get the sense that Brady is fully prepared to smash his cell phone if there are any follow-up questions about the matter.

  48. tylawspick6 says:
    May 22, 2017 9:50 AM
    The Pats will still have draft picks stolen over this. lmao

    ///////////

    Let it go man

  49. Just because you see stars doesn’t mean its a concussion. Give me a break!

  50. The problem with developing safer helmets or better equipment anywhere on the body is that it allows players to run at each other with even more abandon. When you have 300 pound men running full speed at each other bad things will happen to their bodies.

  51. Crab fishing is dangerous too.. Football players know the dangers when you sign up..

    So smashing your head isn’t healthy??? No way.. lmao

  52. The only Detroit football player I’ve ever heard of is Barry Sanders…

    Who is this Calvin guy? 😛

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