Kurt Warner Speaks Out on the Pressure to Play with a Concussion
According to former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, there is tremendous pressure to get back on the field and play through a concussion or a similar mild traumatic brain injury. “I don’t think anybody came up to me and said, “Well you have to play whether you’re 100% or not,” Warner said. “But you wondered if guys were looking at you a little differently and saying…he’s not being tough.”
Unfortunately, playing through concussions can result in disastrous long term health consequences for players. Dr. Bennet Omalu, co-director of the Brain Injury Research Institute, has been very outspoken about the high incidence chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL players. CTE is a brain injury which results in symptoms similar to dementia, including:
- Memory loss
- Uncontrollable depression
- Suicidal tendencies
According to Omalu, while concussions present severe problems for NFL players, CTE may also be caused by the many smaller blows to the head that each player suffers in the course of a football game. These smaller blows may not result in immediate symptoms, but they can have serious long term health consequences for players.
The NFL has recently taken some steps towards safeguarding the health of players who have suffered concussions. Players are currently not allowed to return to play until they have been cleared by a doctor of all concussion-related symptoms. However, some medical experts, including Omalu, believe that this policy doesn’t go far enough, since it takes the brain several months to completely heal after a concussion.
Warner believes it will be a long time before the culture in the NFL truly changes to the point where the health and safety of players is valued more than winning. Unfortunately, until that happens, many players will continue to place their long term health in jeopardy on a weekly basis.