- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 21, 2009

NFL HAS A HEADACHE ONLY GOODELL CAN CURE

It’s fun to dissect and dispute just about everything in the NFL, from Bill Belichick’s bravado to Bud Adams’… spastic fingers.

One of the subjects it’s not so fun to argue about is concussions.

After all, it seems everyone is on the same side, even Reticent Roger (Goodell) — is anyone making a case for more concussions in the NFL?

Problem is, this season has provided consistent reminders that the league still has a major problem on its hands when it comes to this most essential of subjects: the safety and well-being of its players.

This week, the Associated Press reported its finding that nearly one in five players has hidden or minimized the effects of a concussion.

One of those players was Redskins kick returner Rock Cartwright, who said his brain was “shaking like a bell” after a jarring hit a few years ago. Cartwright returned to the field minutes later, and he never told the Redskins’ medical staff.

On Sunday, running back Brian Westbrook left the Eagles’ game in San Diego with his second concussion in less than three weeks. Westbrook never should have been out on the field; he had been scratched from the Eagles’ previous game because of recurring headaches from the first concussion.

Not coincidentally, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to players association chief DeMaurice Smith last week stressing that players should report all head injuries and tell the training staff when they see a teammate showing concussion symptoms.

There are two problems with this: As Cartwright showed, players aren’t doctors; they don’t realize when they have had a concussion, so how would they know when a teammate has had one? Second, in a league built on machismo, expecting players to start scrutinizing one another’s health is a pie-in-the-sky notion.

The only real solution is increased monitoring by medical staffs and rules keeping players who have suffered a head injury off the field (including a mandatory sit-out period for players diagnosed with a concussion). Expecting players in a dog-eat-dog league to police themselves simply isn’t going to work.

He Said What?

“There are some things that happen for 18 years of their lives that I can’t change in four years of college. Can’t do it. Can’t change their behaviors, can’t change their attitudes.”

- Kansas coach Mark Mangino on abuse allegations from former players

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