A few weeks back, I saw an advance screening of “Concussion,” a movie chronicling Bennet Omalu’s discover of CTE in NFL players and the league’s subsequent fight to obscure his discovery. I focused not so much on the film itself but the larger issue that the movie raises: namely, the complicated relationship we all have with football now that we know the long-term risks.
My relationship is complicated because I write about football (and many other sports) for a living. But it’s nowhere near as complicated as that of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a veteran NFL offensive lineman. Ferguson saw “Concussion” recently and has also read up on the subject. He wrote about it for SI.com, and he wrote quite well.
Ferguson wrote about being naive about what could cause brain injuries, with a few key lines:
After learning all of this, I feel a bit betrayed by the people or committees put in place by the league who did not have my best interests at heart. Dr. Elliot Pellman was one of the Jets’ team doctors when I was a rookie in 2006, and to learn that he was a part of the group that tried to discredit the scope and impact of brain injuries among players within the league is disheartening.
It’s a different conversation when you are involved in the story and not just watching a movie about it. I fear the unavoidable truth is that playing football has placed me in harm’s way, and I am not yet sure of the full extent of what it might cost me. And yet, would I do it all again? I would, considering what I have accomplished on and off the field because of my relationship with football. My involvement in the game from eighth grade to the NFL has been a journey that I couldn’t imagine not having as part of my life story. But learning about CTE and brain injuries have made me wonder if I would so easily allow my child to follow my footsteps. If I had a son, would I let him play? I struggle to answer this question. I sincerely believe that the game has and will continue to improve on all levels and put its players in the best possible position, but I do have doubts in whether that is something that I would want to let my child pursue.