Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Getting Educated On Concussions

I continue to thank Meridian Health for affording me the opportunity to share my thoughts on whatever I’d like that's health related.  If you've read my blogs over the past few years you will know that that I am passionate about maintaining good health but I also hold a very keen interest in concussion awareness. This month I would like to share my thoughts on that issue.  More precisely, I want to weigh in on the "push back" or criticism that former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland has received on a decision he made.

Last year (2014) Chris Borland was in his first season with the 49ers having graduated from the University of Wisconsin. After an outstanding rookie season he made the choice to retire due to fears of concussions he could have already sustained and the possible future brain damage he could be risking playing football. When Borland made his decision to end his football career, I personally applauded his decision because I knew he took his time and did his own research to educate himself on the possible links of concussions to future neurological problems. He did what he felt he needed to do for his family but more importantly he did what he thought was best for him! I applauded and admired his decision because unlike most football players he was not blinded by the millions of dollars he could have made playing in the National Football League. I applauded his decision because most football players especially young "naive" players do what they are told to do or just follow the crowd and do not necessarily question those who say that the game of football is safe to play. He made up his own mind to step away from professional football.

I could very much relate to Chris Borland as I realized after my career ended that I had experienced some "issues" during and after my football career ended that I found hard to describe. When I was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome and then educated myself on the issues I realized then that if I was having neurological issues, there were probably many other former players dealing with similar neurological issues. Along my journey after football I came to the stark reality that what I knew about the lingering ramifications of concussion that if I had to do it all over again I would not have done it.  I made that decision many years ago but few people noticed or paid attention to my comments.  When I became a member of Pro Football Hall of Fame making the statement that I would not have played the game knowing what I know now about concussions did not sit well with many who thought it was sour grapes on my part to make the statement after playing and achieving the ultimate honor as a member of the Hall of Fame.

It's one thing for an older football player who is well over the age of 50 to say what I've gone on record of saying about not playing the game again.  It's another thing that Chris Borland a mere rookie, at the beginning of what could have been an outstanding career in the National Football League to make a decision to step away from the game. Many fans who love football have cast Borland as "a quitter" "soft", "self centered", "a traitor" and ultimately a dangerous voice that could negatively influence the game.  Rabid football fans love the game whether it's high school, college or professional football and consider their team to be "their team" and unfortunately they prefer their players on the field to just shut and just play. What Chris Borland did last spring by retiring goes against the grain of what 99% of the other professional football players would do. In my opinion what Chris Borland did for his own well being took courage, integrity and showed his intelligence to research, digest the information and come to his own conclusion.

Every football fan who never knew who Chris Borland was before should know who he is now. And for every parent who is indecisive as to whether they should allow their son to play football or not they should do what Chris Borland did. They should look at all of the information on the relationship between concussions and the long lasting associated effects of traumatic brain injuries before making a decision. I've never met Chris Borland but I feel we are on the same page. While it is not our intent to destroy the popularity of football, we think it is critically important for parents to have adequate information to educate themselves make the right or best decision for their own family members in regard to playing the game of football.