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Steinberg: Ugly truth about football

Steinberg Says

October 26, 2013|By Leigh Steinberg

I love the game of football. It is America's passion for a reason.

Athletes learn invaluable life lessons from their participation in football at whatever level they participate. The ability to stay self-disciplined, put hard work ahead of immediate gratification, master a complex playbook, work within a team concept and elevate levels of performance in critical situations are skills transferable to success in any non-football endeavor. The sport models those values every day in a way that inspires young people.

I have enjoyed 40 years of excitement and recompense in assisting players to live a fulfilling life. But there is an ugly truth surrounding the sport that drastically needs attention — concussions cause brain damage and future catastrophic consequences.

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If mothers attempt to safeguard their children by preventing them from participating in the sport, its talent supply will dry up. And if the risks push every athlete with other options to play those sports instead, all that will remain are athletes so desperate to escape economic circumstances that they accept the prospect of later mental disability as a necessity.

Football will always be a contact game with the risk of concussion. I believe that the very line play, that is the basis of the game, produces low-level concussion events on every single play. When offensive and defensive linemen collide to begin a play they are suffering a slight change in their consciousness. Their brains are forced against the interior skull.

No one is knocked out, they just go on to the next play. The definition of concussion is not confined to someone suffering a blow, which knocks them unconsciousness. It is a blow to the head or body causing a change in brain function.

It is possible that an offensive lineman could retire after a career of high school, collegiate, and professional practices and games with thousands of sub-concussive hits, not one of which was ever measured or monitored. This is why I think this issue is an undiagnosed health epidemic, which is a ticking time bomb for future consequences.

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