Since the days of leather helmets, football has been one of America’s most vigorous, violent and beloved past times. There’s a hidden cost however to playing the game, and concerns of long-term brain injuries are growing. It’s leading some former players like Harry Carson to become an outspoken advocate, raising awareness of the unintended consequences of playing professional football. As good as it sounds you can’t just keep your heart in the game and your head out.
Harry Carson played with the New York Giants as their linebacker for thirteen years, from 1976-1988. It wasn’t until years after the 231st member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame retired that he realized he suffered from Post Concussion Syndrome (“PCS”), a disease that he will have for the rest of his life. Carson believes he suffered from 12-18 concussions as a player. There is a very long list of former players who suffer/suffered from PCS or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (“CTE”). These disorders are linked to dementia, erratic behavior, short-term memory loss, anxiety, dizziness, severe depression. There is also some evidence that PCS and CTE may lead to suicidal behavior.
Harry has served as an advisor to the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and is a member of the Brain Injury Association’s Sports Injury Prevention Council. Carson has also been a very strong advocate for the plight of his National Football League brethren. He personally lobbied commissioner Roger Goodell for enhanced benefits and disability coverage for retired players. At 57, Harry is the author of the poignant book “Captain For Life” (published last August). He covers his own cognitive problems and suicidal thoughts that he believes were brought on by football. He tries to tell players to listen to the facts now, not to wait until it affects them. Something he himself did, stating, “We listened, but did not hear or process it”. He wants every parent to be fully informed that his or her child could sustain neurological damage. A study showed that kids who play football will receive 8,000 head impacts by the time they graduate college.
Being an avid football fan I do not want to lose the sport I invest so much of mine in to. But I do feel that many changes should be made, not just moving kickoffs forward 5 yards. There may not be a concussion proof helmet out there, but there are some penalties that go beyond fines and suspensions that can be instituted for repeat offenders like Steelers James Harrison and Lions Ndamukong Suh who seem to think they can’t change their style of play. Kick them out of the league, set an example. I know head injuries happen all the time are not always the result of illegal contact, but this could help. Yes, that might mean getting rid of some great players, but why should we lose football because of athletes who think of only themselves.