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Concussions in the NFL: A linebacker’s view

By Art Stevens

Recently, I wrote a column about concussions, as well as other injuries, in the National Football League. Part of it was devoted to what parents may think about their kids playing football. This is a follow up to that column as we track the growth and progress of the problem as it pertains to the owners, the league, the players, the parents and their kids. We’ll start with a gentleman who identifies with at least two of the above. He is a player, and a parent with a young son.

Bart Scott has been a linebacker for the New York Jets of the National Football League for ten years now. He knows what it’s like to play professional football. The violence, the bodily punishment, the inevitable injuries, the constant thought about the status of his health, both physically and mentally, in the years ahead and how all of this might affect not just him but his family. Many of the facts were known before but seem to have been pushed into focus more clearly by the unfortunate suicide of Junior Seau. Of course, the main reason for Bart, as well as most players, to go through this at all is financial. Bart is about halfway through a six year, $48 million contract with the Jets. This should cover protection for his family when his career ends, and while that is very important, I think that what is most important is that he be there with them and in a healthy state.

In an interview recently, Bart said, “I don’t want my son (seven years old,) to play football. I play football so he won’t have to. With what is going on, I don’t know if it is really worth it.” About two percent of the players who play in college make it to the National Football League. “What about the other 98 percent,” Scott said. “My reward is being able to supply my family at a high level.”

He was asked that if football was good enough for him, why not for his son? He answered, “I don’t want to have to deal with him getting a concussion and what it would be like later in life. He can play baseball. I really don’t want him boxing either, even though he wants to box. It’s not worth it. The most important thing for me is him being around and me being able to spend a long time with him, and I’m sure, at the end of the day, and all the things I’m able to buy him from playing football, he’d much rather have me.”

When asked if his son, later on, tells him he wants to play Pop Warner football, Bart responded, “I can’t stop him from doing what he wants to do. I would support it because he’s my son, but I would try to push baseball in his face.”

When asked if he has suffered any concussions, he replied: “Not that I know of, but I’m sure I probably have some damage. I play linebacker.”

As I stated in the previous column, this is a very serious problem for the NFL. It’s probably as serious as any they have ever had. There are hundreds of ex-players who are in the process of suing the NFL, claiming negligence regarding safety precautions. While I have no idea where THAT will lead, I certainly DO have an idea that a concussion is an injury to the head (more specifically the brain). The MAIN equipment involved is the HELMET; and if the NFL should go into court, if indeed, that is where it winds up, without first making drastic safety changes TO the helmet, they can find themselves in more trouble than they can imagine. I’m talking about the kind of trouble that can change the game of professional football as we know it.