May 2, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; A detailed view of a hat left at the impromptu memorial in front of Seau

Is A Federal Investigation Needed Towards The NFL On Concussions?

Just a quick thought to wrap the night up. We at TVA express our condolences towards Junior Seau’s family on their tragic loss today. Seau was simply one of the best linebackers of this past era and one day will be in the Hall of Fame where one of his children will have to do the honors of standing on stage.

What brings this thought up however is remember 7 years ago when former baseball All-Star Jose Canseco wrote a book called “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big”? In that book Canseco went over his personal steroid usage and naming a number of former recognizable teammates who also used steroids. Juiced went on to become a New York Times bestseller and two years later led to a federal investigation informally known as the “Mitchell Report” covering illegal performance-enhancing substances by players. A total of 89 players were named in the Mitchell Report for their steroid usage and on the whole it was found to be truthful. One can debate back-and-forth if the Mitchell Report was effective, however a motive for the investigation was towards helping future generations avoid using steroids and doing more to prevent the usage in professional baseball.

What brings us to the NFL is it’s fair to wonder if the federal government should investigate the National Football League on concussions. The suicide death of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson is haunting. For those that don’t know Duerson shot himself in the chest and asked his family via suicide note that his brain be donated towards research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is a progressive degenerative disease towards individuals who have been subject to multiple concussions. Duerson’s family later sued the NFL towards players’ safety. The case is ongoing.

Unless you were living in a cave today you heard that Seau likely killed himself in a similar manner of shooting himself in the chest. It’s worth noting that Seau not once missed a game towards a concussion, but when Duerson’s brain was examined by Boston University the amount of evidence of CTE found was “indisputable”. Seau himself also struggled with depression since leaving football.

I’ll be the first to admit the football is a great sport. It’s “America’s Game” and king of the television ratings for a reason. But like in Major League Baseball, the problems must be addressed in the biggest of leagues and in this case that’s the National Football League. If long-term depression and suicide are the long-term health risks, we can’t have a society where junior high school student (or whenever they’re allowed to wear helmets for the first time and hit one another) are hiding concussions during games because they’re afraid they’re going to be taken out. We can’t continue to see professional leagues have players continue to get bigger and faster who hit one another at over 20 mph leading with their helmets, then are visibly dazed stumbling back to the sidelines eventually telling their coaches they’re fine when in essence they’re really not. And we can’t afford to have another athlete whom we’ve loved so dearly take his or her own life.

The NFL has done some things to aid players health after head injuries or concussions such as not allowing them to reenter the game if they have a gap in memory, dizziness or a headache. But do coaches really abide by that if the game is on the line? The league has also permitted an anti-concussion helmet to be worn in games, however that specific helmet increases the amount of neck injuries. And then there’s the talk of the league doing away with kickoffs with a player twice as likely to suffer a concussion on those plays than any other. But maybe all of this isn’t enough. Maybe it’s time for a another governing body to intervene. Maybe then we’ll have some answers. Or maybe not.

Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig

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