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Is Football Worth it ?

January 8, 2016

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , , , — admin @ 9:08 pm

Like many Sundays over many years, I watched professional football last weekend. I will probably watch more until my New England Patriots are no longer in the NFL playoffs. My wife is quite surprised that I continue to watch, since we had been to see Will Smith in “Concussion” the day before.

Will Smith, right,  and the real-life Dr. Bennet Omalu

Will Smith, right, and the real-life Dr. Bennet Omalu

Make no mistake, Will Smith does a great job in his portrayal of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who brought the dangers of playing football to the forefront and exposed the NFL for what it is – a business, making profits at the expense of its players.

The movie has been portrayed as being too one-sided and heavy handed, but the reality is that the NFL has been heavy handed and one-sided in it’s attitude for much longer.

In fact my wife and I had first-hand knowledge of the NFL attitude several years ago when we attempted to approach the York family, which owns the San Francisco 49ers,  about providing psychological consulting to help retired athletes deal with the problems of brain damage caused by repeated hits to the head. Dismissively, John York rejected the idea out of hand saying the NFL was handling the issue just fine.

The movie and the thousands of former players who sued the NFL, have proven him wrong.

You cannot see the movie without having second thoughts about allowing your son to play football.

If you are a fan, you can’t help but leave conflicted. Should I continue to watch football and support the mistreatment of the athletes or should I show my displeasure by quitting cold turkey.

The reality is, if you believe Dr. Omalu’s research, there is no middle ground. Better helmets are not the answer – they do not prevent concussions.

Better concussion treatment is not the answer because research has shown that it is the repeated blows to the head that seems to cause CTE.

Football is ingrained in the American way of life. I don’t know how many former players will have to commit suicide before we confront the reality of its impact on the athletes and I don’t know how many tragic stories of broken bodies and minds will convince Americans that we are watching gladiators just like the ancient Romans.

I think it’s a cop out to say that the athletes know the risks and want to play anyway, so it’s ok for us to watch.

I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. But I think that the movie should be seen by everyone, to enjoy Will Smith’s performance, and gain a better understanding of the fate that awaits many NFL players.

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NFL PR Machine

August 30, 2012

I’m sure John York, Co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers did not see his

John York, 49ers CEO

presentation last night at the Commonwealth Club, as part of an NFL public relations roadshow, but that’s what it was.

Dr. York, who appeared with former NFL star Dan Fouts and San Diego trauma surgeon A. Brent Eastman, M.D. , was on hand to address traumatic injuries in the NFL. As head of the league’s Health and Safety Advisory Committee, his job was apparently to convince the crowd on hand that for the last 30 years the league has only had the best interests of its players in mind.

While this flies in the face of reality, particularly since over 2,000  former players are currently suing the league to seek compensation for their injuries, Dr. York insisted that the well being of the players has always been the highest priority.

Fouts was on hand to lend support with his litany of injuries, from pulled muscles

Dan Fouts, NFL quarterback

to a broken foot, back, shoulder and hand, many of which were blamed on late hits, which would not have been tolerated in today’s game. The real question might be, why were they tolerated then – when Fouts led the SanDiego Chargers in the 1980’s.

The Hall of Fame quarterback described his injuries in great detail, naming ‘assailants’ in most cases, but expressed clear disdain for the new rules implying that what  current 49er quarterback Alex Smith plays is not really football anymore. Presumably because he has only missed two seasons to injuries and is still able to walk.

Fouts, along with his friend and surgeon, Dr. Eastman seemed to contradict himself, when he supported Dr. York’s contention that the game was better off with the new rules.

York denied there was any pressure on team doctors to get players back into the game quickly, saying he knew that was the policy on the 49ers, although he could not vouch for the rest of the league. Fouts told stories of being pushed back into action despite injury, which York claimed would never happen today.

It’s not a question of a team owner calling the team doctor to apply pressure, the doctor does it on his own, beacause he knows who signs his paycheck.

This is particularly true with head injuries and concussions. These injuries have only been addressed in the last few years when the NFL finally stopped relying on a  discredited medical expert who claimed that head injuries and long term brain damage were not related. Dr. York says the issue is now being researched – most likely to buttress the League’s court defense .

The panelists may have convinced themselves but I remain skeptical, particularly since the NFL has been forced to make changes by lawsuits and owners who saw major hits to their bottom line when marquee players were out with season-ending injuries.

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