Walkthrough: Concussions

Walkthrough: Concussions
Walkthrough: Concussions
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Mike Tanier

I get asked about concussions and CTEs a lot, both by friends and by people seeking my on-record, expert opinion. I have no expertise in this field whatsoever, and I rarely feel comfortable talking about such sensitive issues.

Still, I have to say something, and I suppose I have to think something. So here is my official position statement on concussions in the NFL.

1. It is ridiculous to take a "zero-tolerance" stance toward concussions in sports. It is appropriate, and for decision makers should be mandatory, to take a zero-tolerance stance toward dangerous behaviors and bad preventative-diagnostic-treatment practices.

2. While the NFL’s response to the medical field’s evolving understanding of concussions and CTEs has drawn criticism, some of the response is probably justified. The league is addressing the issue, from a variety of angles, in a somewhat proactive way. Rule changes, stiff penalties for rough or premeditated hits, and changes in post-concussion evaluation and recuperative practices are all steps in the right direction, and the league appears serious about taking further steps.

3. Concussion prevention and post-concussion treatment each involve a variety of policies and procedures. These include: rule changes; equipment modifications or changes; stepped-up enforcement of rules against dangerous behaviors, by players, coaches, and franchises; better diagnostic practices; better treatment practices; and post-career support services, in addition to some other things I have not thought of.

Considering the complexity and multi-dimensionality of the issue, it is unrealistic to think of concussions and CTEs as a "solvable" problem. It is better to think of it as "manageable." Furthermore, judging the NFL’s response to any one of these issues in isolation is not particularly informative. The NFL’s effort to manage concussion-related problems is best judged holistically.

4. The NFL cannot prevent a concussion which occurred 20 years ago. It should also not be held accountable for the society-wide attitude that existed 20 years ago which generally held that an athlete with a concussion "had his bell rung" and should be ready to play after some Gatorade and smelling salts. The NFL can increase its outreach to retired players, through the NFLPA or other channels, and can assist at-risk veterans with counseling (personal, emotional, career) and other programs. The NFL does a little of this, and I believe they can do more, but we have to accept that these would be "close the barn door" services to a degree, at least in the short term.

5. The NFL is in a position to send unequivocal messages to the college and prep levels about the dangers of concussions and CTEs, and sending those messages is more important than anything else the NFL does on this matter. That is why the harsh penalties the league handed down to the Saints organization and players were justified, in my opinion.

Particularly at the prep level, attitudes are often slow to change. There are still high school coaches who say things like "we didn’t have any mamby-pamby concussion rules in our day," and these coaches remain employed because there are parents and community members who believe that asking a child to shake off a head injury teaches them "toughness." This attitude must be annihilated, for the sake of thousands of children who will play high school football but will never come close to the NFL.

The topic of prep and youth football safety is currently being debated, and it is more complex than anything the NFL can deal with (and, as it involves everything from pediatrics to school law, far too complex for television talking heads to prattle about). The NFL is doing its part by setting a tone on two very noticeable points: installing post-concussion diagnostic procedures which, while in need of improvement, are better than "how many fingers am I holding up," and cracking down not just on illegal hits, but the kind of angry-coach rhetoric that encourages unsafe procedures.

6. The most obvious problem the NFL faces right now is the knowing circumvention of the existing rules: apparent head injuries that are redefined as shoulder injuries, the Colt McCoy incident, and so on. Independent neurologists may help solve these problems. Stiffer fines and/or suspensions for organizations which flaunt the existing rules should also be enforced.

7. The medical profession’s understanding of CTEs is still evolving. The NFL’s response is still evolving. Our attitudes and perceptions toward these matters are still evolving. Expecting instant results, or more illogically, retroactive results, is counterproductive, as is sensationalizing what is already a serious problem. It is our job as writers to become as informed as possible while acknowledging how uninformed we still are, and for "generalists" like me to recognize the limits of our knowledge on these issues. As fans, you owe it to yourselves to be patient with things like bad on-field calls while the NFL tries to figure these issues out.

8. There is a tendency among many of us in the media to adopt an arch, hypercritical, "one concussion is one too many" stance on this issue. Some of us sneer at every NFL initiative to prevent concussions as "lip service" or a "public relations" move by an entity with no regard whatsoever for the health of its employees. Others take to Twitter minutes after a tragic event, climb onto our soapboxes, and use the untimely loss of a beloved player as an opportunity to promote our particular brand of enlightenment on this issue. We assume a concussion after every big hit, then accuse the team of covering up the concussion, based on zero evidence (other than an instant replay) and zero medical knowledge. We sometimes speak out of compassion or concern, but sometimes we speak out of cynicism or in the name of self-promotion, and at times we ourselves cannot tell which is which.

We are not performing a service to anyone when we behave in this matter. We become like Helen Lovejoy shouting "think of the children!" Concussions and CTEs are medical issues, with social and economic overtones, that are best approached analytically, critically, and skeptically. I ask my colleagues to make themselves part of the solution. Respect the scope and importance of this issue by not turning it into a 140-character bon mot.

9. I sincerely believe that in 20 years, we will be watching and enjoying football, and that concussions and post-concussion symptoms will be manageable medical problems that we have learned to avoid in many cases and treat responsibly in the others. American football used to have problems with severe spinal injuries and on-field deaths, first at the turn of the 20th century and later before World War II. Rule, equipment, and attitude changes have made these tragic events rare. Concussions will never be quite as rare, but I believe long-term concussion symptoms will come to be contained as medical knowledge grows and football practices evolve.

10. For the record, my children have shown no interest in the sport, and I would be more likely to dissuade them because of the sport’s intense time commitments on young people than because of fear of concussions. (Nine-year-olds should not practice for two hours per night, five nights per week, at the start of a school year.) I have witnessed terrifying collisions on high school fields, and have also seen hundreds of young boys use football to enhance their self-esteem, community pride, and character, in addition to their ability to run fast and hit hard. Banning football or restricting our young people from the sport is not the solution. Becoming smarter, safer, and saner is the solution.

That’s that. Now, please, let’s play some football.

Or at least watch a movie.


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Two random thoughts on The Avengers movie.

First, is Stark Towers located on the footprint of NFL headquarters in Manhattan? It is hard to tell the exact address with all of the explosions and action all around it. Oh, wait, spoiler alert: The Avengers contains a lot of explosions and action in New York. Sorry about that.

The Chrysler Tower is clearly seen out Tony Stark’s window in many shots. Chrysler Tower is at 46th and Lexington, on the East Side. NFL Headquarters is on Park Avenue near 48th Street, just a few blocks away. I have never been in Roger Goodell’s office, but I can imagine him having a view of the Chrysler Tower spire. And a red-and-gold battle suit.

During a battle sequence, Tony Stark clearly says that he is getting chased by villains down Park Avenue. Stark Towers appears in a wide shot a few seconds later. That settles it: in the Marvel universe, Iron Man is also commissioner of the NFL.

Actually, I think the production designers stuck Stark Towers on the footprint of the Met Life building, which is just also just a few blocks from Chrysler Tower. If my memory serves me correctly, some earlier shots show Stark Tower very close to the East River. That cannot be right: Marvel fans know that is not Stark Towers, but Four Freedoms Plaza. I may have to go watch the movie again, and write the ticket price off as a research expense.

Second, and Twitter followers know that I have grown slightly obsessed about this: did anyone notice the really, really archaic dirty word Joss Whedon slipped past the censors during one of Loki’s speeches? He calls Black Widow a "mewling quim." Woah! Queen Victoria just fainted. That Q-word was the C-word for several hundred years, and may still be in some parts of the world, so I am sorry for writing it as if it is still super-naughty in your corner of the English-speaking world.

It is not a big deal here in the United States. A cuss word just isn’t a cuss word if no one in the audience knows what it means. I just wanted to mention it so you guys can discuss it if you do not want to talk concussions (and who does?), and if it becomes a major topic of discussions on The View next week, you heard it here first.

Buccaneers Top Five Running Backs

1. James Wilder

Wilder’s 407 carries in 1984 still rank as the third highest single-season total in history. ( Larry Johnson and Jamal Anderson rank first and second). Wilder also caught 85 passes that year; if we assume he was targeted about 100 total times, then he was involved in 48 percent of the Bucs’ offensive plays that year.

Curse of 370 notwithstanding, Wilder managed a 1,300 yard season in 1985 before trailing off, though he really did start trailing off in 1985. Wilder started the 1985 season with four games of 100 or more yards, three of them on 26 or 27 carries, the fourth on 22. Soon, the 24-for-49 and 26-for-49 stats lines began to mix with 14-for-13 catastrophes, though Wilder still mixed in some productive games and was a force near the goal line.

Despite obvious diminishing returns, Leeman Bennett and the Bucs refused to use a change-up back of any kind. Steve Young finished second on the team with 233 rushing yards (in five games) in 1985, and veteran fullback Ron Springs was third with 16 carries for 54 yards. The Bucs were a one-back offense in the truest sense of the term. They were also terrible. Forcing poor Wilder to hammer into the line 26 times for a two-win team was just bonkers, though Wilder was probably happy to do it.

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Wilder’s wheels stared to fall off in 1986. He missed two early-season games, then got knocked out early in a third, then missed the final two games. In between, he managed a 24-for-130 Thanksgiving effort that probably represents the only full-game memory most fans my age have of Wilder. That game was not in keeping with his 1986 efforts, because he typically carried 10-20 times by that point, but it was an otherwise accurate slice of his career: he got worked like a mule (nine catches to boot), and the Bucs lost 38-17. Springs was still the change-up back, though really Wilder’s per-game carries only dipped because the Bucs were always getting beaten 31-7, 38-7, or 35-14.

The Bucs finally got Wilder some help in the form of Jeff Smith, then Lars Tate; the team obviously had trouble identifying decent running backs other than Wilder and an ex-Cowboys fullback. Wilder hung around for several seasons as a useful fullback and receiver-back. He would have had a better career with a better team, or with a few less 30-touch games.

2. Warrick Dunn

Dunn finished second in receiving DYAR among running backs with 227 DYAR in 1999. His DVOA was all over the place during his Bucs years, but then so were his raw numbers. He averaged 2.8 yards per carry in 2001, 3.2 yards per carry in 1999. Complementary backs like Dunn often have up-and-down careers; a change-up back who doesn’t break a run longer than 21 yards and gets saddled with six-carry, three-yard games is going to have a statistically poor year, even if he is the same guy who gained 1,500 total yards the previous year.

We never think of Dunn as inconsistent, though, because he is so consistent as a human being.

3. Mike Alstott

Alstott was almost undoubtedly the worst NFL player to be able to boast six Pro Bowl berths and three All-Pro selections since the merger. Alstott kept making the Pro Bowl as a "fullback" even though he was more of a change-up back. As a running back, DVOA was rarely impressed by his rushing or 7.5 yard per catch receiving average. Alstott’s Success Rates were all over the place –- he went from 39 percent to 54 percent in one year -– which is not good for the guy who is supposed to move the chains.

Alstott was not a bad player, of course, and he had a long career as a guy who could help out up the middle, at the goal line, or on a screen. But between the Pro Bowls, Chris Berman sound effects, and gritty white guy persona, he runs the risk of being incredibly overrated. If an Alstott for Hall of Fame bandwagon starts rolling, please shoot paintballs at it.

4. Michael Pittman

Excitingly ordinary all-purpose back who was just good enough at everything to be a cog in the Jon Gruden machine in 2002.

5. Cadillac Williams

Cadillac was never able to overcome injuries and achieve his potential, but he settled into a role as a useful backup for several years.

Errict Rhett grinded out two 1,000 yard seasons in 1994 and 1995. As you might expect from a back averaging 3.6 yards per carry, Rhett generated negative DVOAs in his best years. He was a grinder who should have gotten less than 332 carries in his best seasons. Ricky Bell was another grinder -- the Bucs famously chose him ahead of Tony Dorsett in the 1977 draft. After a pair of injury-marred seasons, he flashed his potential with a 1,263 yard season for a 10-6 team in 1979, but that was the high-water mark of a disappointing career, and Bell died tragically of heart failure a few years later.

LeGarrette Blount appears to be following in the footsteps of players like Cadillac and Rhett. Chances are that Doug Martin will replace him before he cracks the top five. Any back that has three 1,000-yard seasons for a competitive Buccaneers teams will have an argument for joining Wilder and Dunn at the top of this list.

Don’t worry, folks: the NFC West Top 5 Running Back lists will be far better!


180 comments, Last at 19 May 2012, 2:48am

1 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Here's my question. The Hulk: nose tackle, defensive end, or middle linebacker?

23 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

He'd be the ultimate combine phenom, although I'm not sure how the Wonderlic thing would turn out.

(edit) Oh, and I'd wager that Jeff Ireland would be more circumspect in the interview process.

31 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

See, I'm thinking a two-gap position doesn't fit his style very well. Put him in a penetrating-type position, like the 3-tech, and he'll be devastating. Think a more sportsmanlike Albert Haynesworth.

12 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

To stay somewhat relevant to the rest of the post, if you talk to lots of Tampa fans, he'd be Mike Alstott.

And no, I never thought he was all that good either, but you would be amazed at the shock and vitriol I hear from other Bucs fans when I mention that. The guy is a god to Bucs fans.

16 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I may be misremembering this, but it seems to me that he wasn't even a particularly good blocker, or proficient in blitz pick up, because he just wasn't athletic enough.

32 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

"Someone else has to block when they're supposed to block. The Hulk cannot throw the ball, catch the ball AND block at the same time! I can’t believe they miss blocks so many times."

143 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Nope. About equal. There's an issue where the Juggernaut in civvies beats up the Hulk into unconciousness so that he can be brainwashed...

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

58 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Block? Pick up a blitz? If you put the Hulk at tailback, you'll never pass the ball and all your offensive possessions will last one play. I don't see how these skills would be relevant.

And obviously he plays NT on defense because it's the shortest path between him and the QB. Anything that happens to occupy that space would be just as irrelevant as his blitz pickup skills.

106 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Actually, I'd think you'd put the Hulk at QB. Why take the additional risk of a hand-off?

Unless you think the best option is a deliberate bad shotgun snap followed by the other ten players fleeing to minimum safe distance while the Hulk legally injures the entire opposing starting defense as they try to recover . . .

157 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I just saw the movie last night. Here's my question - though totally unrelated to football - maybe someone who knows the universe can enlighten me:


Not really, but anyway, how come for the entire movie everyone talks about how he can't be controlled when he's the Hulk and is such a threat to everyone, friend and enemy alike. And then the first time he does it he goes crazy and of course can't be controlled, just beating on everything and everyone no matter who they are. Then at the end of the movie, he's totally in control of it for no apparent reason? I don't get it.

Fire Jeff Ireland.

160 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I think it's what his rage is directed at.

On the ship, he was pissed because of being lied to and manipulated, so his rage was focused on the people who did that too him. Also, it looked like he was about to calm down as he stopped himself from slapping the crap out of Black Widow, but then Thor tackled him.

Later on his rage was against the monsters invading Earth.

Also, comic book logic.

3 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

For all I know Mike Alstott is a fine fellow, but I despised him as a football player. A guy with zero home run, or even 20 yard gain, potential, who fumbled a lot, who was raved about. Egads.

Actually, the one time I was prompted to write to Dr. Z with criticism was when he put Alstott on one of his All Pro teams. I asked Z if such a squad should be comprised of players who actually were well above avaerage in terms of being useful for winning games, and how a guy with no speed who put the ball on the ground at a high rate could qualify. When it came to Alstott, it seemed even the astute observers turned off their brains.

19 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

All you say it true. But I liked him. He ran hard and I enjoyed the Chris Berman sound effects. Those got a bit tired towards the end, but he still played hard and seemed like a good guy. Didn't deserve all the accolades, but he can't be blamed for that.

5 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Not to rain on your parade, but a fair amount of what you see in The Avengers was actually filmed in Cleveland, with NYC CGI'd on it. Hence the reason things don't look right.

79 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Croydon is obsessed with attracting film companies. Its brochure says it can double as Prague (they have a couple of suitable trams) and NYC. This is not funny if you don't know Croydon.

107 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Are we talking about Croydon, South London here? Or Croydon, Pennsylvania? Croydon, New Hampshire? Croydon, Utah? Croydon, Ontario? Croydon, New South Wales? I don't doubt that any of the above would be funny to people who knew them, but the only one I'm familiar with (and would indeed be highly amused by) is the one inside the M25.

6 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Quim is fairly well known as a synonym for the big C in the UK. I was fairly surprised that got by the censors over here. I mean, you are (apparently) allowed one decent swear word in a 12-A (our equivalent of your PG-13), but not normally of that magnitude.

I'm not sure its actually in common usage (I've never been called it, and I've been called every other variant of that word), but its definitely well known enough that the Portuguese reserve international goalkeeper called Quim was far more well known on these shores than he had any right to be.

I have no comments on the rest of the article beyond broadly agreeing with you.

33 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I agree that most Brits know what quim is ... yet I cannot think of a time when I have ever heard the word used either as abuse or to describe a woman's bits ... I've heard people talk about "gash" more often and that's not particularly frequent in its use either.

As for soccer players with such names ... German striker Stefan Kuntz is still the gold standard.

51 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

You cannot honestly tell me you made up a list without the legendary driver Dick Trickle.

It was so outrageous that when ESPN would list the qualifying results the crawl would look something like ...1. Tony Stewart......2. Mark Martin......3. Dale Jarrett.....4. Dale Earnhart.....5. Jeff Gordon.....33. Dick Trickle.

88 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Don't forget former pitcher and long-time pitching coach Dick Pole.

Also, while doing legal research several years ago, I read a case involving an expert witness named Richard Blow.

59 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Dick Trickle and Randy Johnson I think are the epitome of unfortunate sports names.

If companies promote creams to cure your name, your parents should be slapped.

113 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I think "quim" is mainly used in erotica (because they feel the need to use every synonym for genitalia they can, um, lay their hands on) and in historical/fantasy fiction to give that olde worlde flavour. I can't immediately think of specific examples, but I would be deeply unsurprised to encounter the word in Rome, Game of Thrones or Sharpe, to name but a few.

163 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

In the late 90's/early 00's I was an instructor at the Air Force Technical Training School for Financial Management and one of my students had the last name Pusey, and it was a female. Talk about an awkward first meeting. I think we settled on a pronounciation of "Pooh-say"...it was a horrible 5 weeks.

97 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Apparently Mike Tanier has not spent enough time with Frank Zappa, in particular '200 Motels'.

To wit, from the song "Penis Dimension":

"Or the ladies, the ones who can't afford a silicone beef-up -- they become writers of hot books:

'Manuel the gardener placed his burning phallus in her quivering quim!'

"Or they become Carmelite nuns..."

Don't forget that you can always console yourself with this old saying from primary school: "Anything over a mouthful is wasted!"

And isn't it the truth!

7 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Maybe I'm being too general, but haven't we spent the last few decades listening to players complaining about the wussification of the NFL every time a new rule was instituted to protect them? Now a lot of these guys are suing because the NFL made the game too dangerous? I don't get it.

13 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

They stand to make a few bucks in the occasional local endorsement deal by keepin their name in the papers. They also stand to make a few bucks when the league settles the various class action lawsuits.

78 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

There have been enough ex-NFL players that the group that has complained about its current wussification can be completely distinct from the group that is suing.

10 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

This is the only memory I have of James Wilder.

Wilder was 19 yards behind Eric Dickerson's newly-set record for combined yards from scrimmage, so the Bucs:

1. Called timeout up 20 with 1:26 to play with the ball on the Jets' 4 when they could have just kneeled out the clock.

2. Handed to Wilder for the 4-yard touchdown.

3. Onside kicked three separate times (the first two were negated by penalties).

4. When those failed, intentionally let the Jets score within 27 seconds, calling timeout before the last play of the drive (the TD is shown in the linked video).

5. Recovered the Jets' onside kick.

6. Handed to Wilder three straight times against a stacked defense for a combined zero yards.

The Jets beat the Bucs 62-28 the next year. I don't think it was a coincidence.

20 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Great story--I somehow missed that back in the day. I've seen TDs given up intentionally before, but I don't think I've ever seen defenders backpedal at full speed like the one Buc does in the video.

26 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Wow, the 1980s Bucs couldn't even successfully embarrass themselves in the name of setting a record. In that situation, wouldn't the obvious solution be to take a few penalties to back yourself up and give Wilder more yards to gain before the end zone, thus removing the need for onside kicks and/or defensive shenanigans?

56 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Good point. And since the record was total yards, you'd have thought that a pass play would have had a better chance of getting him the record than repeatedly running him into the line when they were stacked against the run.

61 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I can't be positive, but it looks from the play-by-play like the Bucs were trying to throw to Wilder on their previous two drives. My guess is the Jets were basically ignoring the other receivers at this point and shading the entire coverage to Wilder.

Third-to-last drive (up 27, drive starts at own 20 with 8:53 left in the 4th, Wilder needs 36 yards):
Swing pass to Wilder for 5
Swing pass to Wilder for 9
Pass to House for 17 [game circumstances clearly do not call for a pass]
Swing pass to Wilder incomplete
Sack for -9
Sack for -11

Next-to-last drive (up 20, drive starts at Jets' 34 with 2:31 left, Wilder needs 22 yards)
Pass to Carter for 9
Wilder run for 3
Pass to Armstrong for 18 [decision to throw to Armstrong makes no sense]
Wilder run for 4 and TD

Steve DeBerg after the game: "I tried to get the ball to James as many times as I could but I wasn't going to pass up Carter for a 20-yard gain."

"They had adjusted. Earlier, we were throwing little swing passes to Wilder in the flat, and they were good for 10 yards. They just weren't covering him."

"As much as I wanted to throw to James, they had him covered."

"In the end, we finally just gave him the ball and let him run."

9 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Thoroughly depressing list of "Best RBs", but it's Tampa. When a guy whose knees exploded with depressing regularity is #5 on your list, it's not really a good sign.

28 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Well, it gets dicey when the team has only played 35 seasons. For a RB to really make an impression, he probably has to play at least 5 seasons with a team, we would be choosing from at most 7 RBs just based on the time period. When you're picking the best 5 of those, you're going to have some duds (and, obviously, there were some guys who were the featured back for far fewer than 5 seasons).

The situation only gets dicier when, for most of the team's existence, they have been the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.

36 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Well, it gets dicey when the team has only played 35 seasons.

The Seahawks and Buccaneers both started in 1976. Seattle's list is going to blow the Buccaneers out of the water.

53 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I think you can make a pretty solid argument that everybody's list is going to blow the Buccaneers' out of the water; the only team I could think with a solid argument to be weaker is the Texans, and they're ten years old, and Arian Foster is a season or two away from even putting the Texans list out of reach.

That being said, Tampa's got better defensive players than Seattle on proverbial lists, so there.

105 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Ernie Nevers, Otis Anderson. They even had Garrison Hearst and Thomas Jones (not that either of them ever did anything much for the Cardinals but they did play for them).

161 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

1 - Otis Anderson
2 - Stump Mitchell
3 - Charlie Trippi
4 - Ollie Matson
5 - Elmer Angsman or John David Crow

Hon. Mention:

Jim Otis, Johnny Roland, Terry Metcalf, Edgerrin James, Pat Harder

164 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Seattle's list isn't THAT impressive...off the top of my head I can only really think of Alexander and Curt Warner...who am I missing? Marshawn Lynch? Please.

168 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I'm assuming Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner, Chris Warren, Ricky Watters, and then someone. Lynch, for his one decent year so far? Warner and Warren are nearly a wash for second/third. The top three had fairly similar peaks with the 'hawks, about 5-6 years of feature back productivity, then falling off of a cliff.

11 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

How can you, while admitting to being a "generalist" like most of us fans, confidently claim we will get the concussion problem under control through advancements?

Maybe. Or maybe we won't, and the NFL will turn into a guilty pleasure like UFC after someone of ubiquitous fame like Tom Brady or Brett Favre shoots himself in the chest and leaves a note to study his brain.

I understand the need to avoid assuming those doomsday scenarios are inevitable. We'll see how much progress can actually be made. But what if we all have to acknowledge that watching football is just a wee bit too much like watching people competitively smoke cigarettes?

29 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Tanier started the article by saying "I have to say something, and I suppose I have to think something" and only said he "believes" that advances in medicine will help manage the concussion problem. I don't think he's overstating his case here, or pretending that football is anything but a violent sport that carries the risk of serious injury to its participants.

100 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

UFC is a fringe sport for wannabe hard-ass punks. It's a far cry from the reach and popularity of the NFL. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.

128 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

^I fully agree that mixed martial arts has nowhere near the popularity of the NFL (tho what sport does*?) but the rest of that is dead wrong. mma was fringe 10 or even 5 years ago but at this point it's pretty mainstream. certainly it's surpassed boxing as the most popular combat sport. it's also not for "wannabes". have you ever seriously trained muay thai? it's no joke. neither is brazilian jiujitsu, or judo, or wrestling (real wrestling obv, not wwe). I mean, whatever, it just bugs me when people badmouth a sport out of ignorance - something football's surely suffered from. anyway.

oh + for the record while concussions + other head trauma are absolutely a very serious concern in mma they are actually a bigger concern in boxing: bigger gloves=fighters can both hit harder (w/o fear of damaging their hands) and absorb more blows before going down.

*in the U.S., I mean: obviously numerous sports are more popular globally

110 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Could we consider the possibility that the NFL is incredibly injurious to the long term health of its participants (including and perhaps especially through concussions) but that actually suicide may turn out not to be particularly high on the list of ways in which it is so?

14 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I don't think there was a single funny line in this entire article, yet it still ranks among my favorite Walkthroughs. Certainly a more reasoned viewpoint than the "CONCUSSIONS ARE A FALSE PANIC!" nonsense FO linked to yesterday.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the NFL actually will do what it takes to address this issue in a way that mollifies public perception. The suspicion that doing so would change the game in a way that makes it less violent, and that the NFL is loath to do this because they believe (correctly or not) that part of their popularity is catering to people who want to watch violence against humans, is going to make it really hard for them to come out looking clean in this. The NFL has overcome serious challenges before, but this one will be a biggy.

15 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Pretty sure one of the Iron Man movies made clear that, as you guessed, Stark Towers is supposed to be where the old Pan Am building (now the MetLife building) is on Park Avenue.

25 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Small nit: the Chrysler Building is at 43rd and Lexington. As for Tanier's measured, extremely reasonable take on concusions...well, this is in the internet, son. We don't serve your kind here.

42 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I don't know what floor(s) the NFL is on, but it appears that the view of the Chrysler Building is fairly obstructed. You might be able to see the very top of it clearly.

I base this guess on Google Earth with its 3D buildings.

And I concur that Tanier's comments are very reasonable and thoughtful.

27 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

In regards to point 4. That the NFL should have no liability for workplace injuries because of societal norms 20 years ago. I believe the NFL has been studying the effects of brain injuries for more than 20 years now. This isn't a 2010 issue the NFL is now throwing resources to properly resolve.
This is an ongoing issue, with arguable culpability on the nfl stretching well back into many, many retired players' careers. And an issue the NFL has, in the past, not done anywhere near as much as it should and needed to do to maintain even an adequete level of health for its workforce.

38 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I had no idea what quim meant until just now.

Doesn't Whedon have a history of sneaking in cuss words that American's won't recognize into his writing? I'm thinking of tall the Chinese cursing in Firefly.

129 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

No! Christ no. It's difficult to make comparisons, because Britain is so much more liberal on that stuff in the first place (perhaps because religiosity's so much less mainstream), but both are only a shade short of "fuck" and definitely ruder than "shit". "Bloody"'s a lot ruder than Americans tend to assume, as well. In fairness, "bugger"'s a little complicated: it's far ruder as a verb than as an exclamation or noun.

But "jerk" is probably analogous to "prat" or at most "sod" (also ruder as a verb than a noun). "Dick", maybe? Or "shithead"? You couldn't print them in a newspaper, put it that way.

134 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Little old ladies sort of have licence to swear. She was definitely calling you cheeky, but I definitely got in trouble at school if I said "bloody".

Also, "bloody cheek" is a bit of a set phrase, which somehow diminishes the rudeness.

Oh, and finally: bloody is common-ish and fairly (not incredibly) rude in UK English, but significantly commoner and significantly less rude in Australian English.

125 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I remember Phil Collins appearing on an episode of Miami Vice circa 1986 and one of his lines being "you must take me for a right wanker" ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBiDiCDetwA

150 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

No, I'm pretty sure Spikesaid "wanker" at least once. Maybe it was the eppisode when they all lost their memories and he thought he was Giles' son and complained to him for naming him Randy? Will have to look that up...

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

152 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

OK, according to TV tropes, it's in an eppisode of Angel (so I'm assuming season 5), where Spike tells Angel to "wank off."

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

40 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

The thing that's missing from the concussion discussion is the brain scans of ex-footballers who went on to live happy, well-adjusted lives after leaving the game. How many of them have concussion damage without the tragedy?

What if the concussions simply aren't a significant part of the problem?

45 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Well, it's not up for debate that severe brain trauma can easily lead to long-term problems with depression, disorientation and violent mood swings. That some people can endure such trauma and not have those problems is a bit like smokers who never get cancer - even if they're lucky enough to get the disease, they certainly didn't help their chances. My great-grandmother chewed tobacco into her 90's, that doesn't mean her habit plays no significant role in cancer.

The questions right now are how frequent and how severe is the brain trauma former players are suffering from and what should be done to minimize health risks to players even before all final data is in...

44 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I haven't seen the movie though I really do enjoy a good comic book film. Still, my initial thoughts from the previews was you couldn't truly enjoy a movie like this when there are too many good guys and each one has massive star billing, making it the threat of them dying impossible or even just being severely wounded. For movies like these to be compelling, the bad guy must always appear at least on par with the hero or stronger for large sections of the movie and here it feels like the main antagonist is picking on poor humans most of the movie.

46 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Tom Brady could be a better QB, the Avengers looks like it has problems - I'll say this: you are very willing to stake out unpopular opinions...

57 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I expected not to like the Avengers for a variety of reasons, but my friends dragged me a long, and I enjoyed it way more than I expected.

It's done as a comedy, and I didn't realize it was a comedy until quite a ways in (although I should have realized it as soon as Samuel Jackson responded to Loki's threat with the one of the most ridiculous lines I've ever heard).

So you watch the movie to see Robert Downy Jr insulting everyone, and oh yeah there happens to be Loki doing bad things to move the plot along.

66 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I didn't see it and it doesn't look exactly like my kind of thing, but there's no arguing it was a hotly anticipated and then universally enjoyed film...

49 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Morally speaking, if one party, the NFL (and its owners) made a killing by pushing another party (the players) into doing things that have turned out to be a plague on their physical and mental health, they owe the players health care at the very least. If they knew something of the dangers then they certainly are legally bound to pay for medical costs plus damages.

When Merrill Hoge, Steve Young, and Troy Aikman were all retiring due to concussion risk very visibly, it seemed pretty obvious that head trauma was a big risk. How does the NFL explain being so passive about this, especially when two of the biggest stars were lost to this cause?

54 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

It seems like, if you were really serious about dealing with the problem of brain damage, the first thing you'd want to do is to get as much data about it as possible.

First - data about blows to the head. It's possible to measure the force of every blow to the head by putting accelerometers in a helmet. Helmets with accelerometers have already been made. So why aren't they being used? Why not make accelerometers part of the standard helmet, for NFL games and practices, so we can keep track of the force of every blow to the head that happens? Or at least run a systematic trial study, giving them to 50 players for a season to see what happens. Match the measurements to video, and we'd know the force of blows to the head, and how often they happen, and on what sorts of plays, in games and in practice.

Second - data on damage to players' brains. I'm not sure how well-developed this technology is. But if it's possible to do a brain scan before the season, and do another brain scan after the season, and compare to see how much additional damage the brain has received, then do that. At least do it for the 50 players who are wearing the accelerometer helmets, so we can look at correlations and see what kinds of blows to the head are associated with increased damage. If it's possible, they could even do some pre-game post-game comparisons of brain scans taken the day before a game and the day after. Or pick a representative sample of retired players and give all of them brain scans. I'm not sure if the technology is capable of this yet, but if it is then they should be doing it (and maybe even moving towards a point where every player gets a scan as part of the standard medical testing).

Once they have these sorts of data, then they could make much more informed decisions about rules on legal hits, helmet technology, keeping at-risk players out of games, etc.

70 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Concussion related damage, if not immediately traumatic (i.e. bleeding or significant swelling), are assumed to occur on the microscopic scale. There is no scan or any other non-invasive method to characterize such subtle changes. Only a biopsy can show that kind of damage, and even then there's no guarantee those changes can be observed acutely.

Also, keep in mind that concussions are a clinical diagnosis, there is no definitive test to confirm or characterize the biological sequelae. Outside of the extreme ranges, I doubt accelerometers will show significant correlation to clinical symptoms, but I don't have any data to back that up (just experience seeing various concussion patients in vehicular accidents and other trauma cases).

The most frustrating aspect of concussions is that statistically speaking the biggest risk factor for concussions is a previous concussion, which isn't really much to go on when trying to craft rules for a violent sport. Outside of that, there isn't any test or procedure to reliably reduce or even predict future concussions.

Even though the data gathering exercise you propose seems like common sense, I have serious reservations that it will produce useful results.

83 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

IIRC, there was a study done a year or two ago with accelerometers in one college's team's helmets.

It showed that lineman should be suffering dozens of concussions in a single game based on how much force they thought should cause one.

111 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Virginia Tech started doing that in 2003. They've never stopped.
Oklahoma, UNC, and Brown I know have also done it; there are at least four more schools in the program as well, and probably quite a few more at this point. Oklahoma instrumented a high school team in 2006 or so, and VT just did a season of pee-wee football last year.

What that linemen data showed is that the NFL tolerance curves skewed too low.

170 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

The most frustrating aspect of concussions is that statistically speaking the biggest risk factor for concussions is a previous concussion, which isn't really much to go on when trying to craft rules for a violent sport.

There are things that the league could do to provide extra protection for players who have already had concussions (and are therefore at the biggest risk for having more concussions). One simple option would be something like a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule, where a player would be forced to retire if he had too many concussions. That is unlikely to happen (no one wants to see Aaron Rodgers forced out of the NFL, except perhaps the other teams in the NFC North), but there are also less crude options.

For instance, announce that it is the responsibility of every team to prevent its players from getting concussions, and that if a player gets a concussion then his team will have to pay a fine to the league (the money could go to concussion-related medical research or care). Have the amount of the fine increase depending on how many concussions the player has had; perhaps $100,000 if it's his first concussion, $250,000 if it's his 2nd, $500,000 if it's his 3rd, $1 million if it's his 4th. If you really want the fines to bite, make them count against the salary cap for the next year. (Of course, there would also be penalties & fines for the opposing player & team that caused the concussion, which might also increase depending on number of previous concussions.)

With these incentives, teams would do what they could to prevent concussions to their players, especially ones who had already had concussions. They'd seek out the best equipment, teach good concussion-avoiding technique, and avoid putting the most concussion-prone players in situations where they were likely to get another concussion (stop sending Collie over the middle). Players who had a history of concussions would earn lower salaries on the free agent market (to balance out the added cost to the team from the possible concussion fines), and might become un-signable unless they were really good (a gunner isn't worth the minimum salary plus a large chance of an additional $1M in fines). The result could be similar to a three-strikes rule (except it wouldn't force out the best players) but less directly coercive, and it would also provide players with a more visible (and shorter-term) incentive to do what they could to avoid concussions so that they could make more money and continue their career.

172 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Interesting concept, but what I don't like is that it basically continues to give stars like Rodgers a free pass on risking further concussions should they want to, and penalizes players on the bubble who arguably need the income and the continued career more. That gunner with a history of concussions who could be making the minimum salary but will be out of the league under your rule is probably going to have almost as great a chance of future problems as if he's kept playing - only now he won't have the extra hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in the bank. In short, I feel that we should either leave the decision to keep playing after concussions (after recovery, of course) up to the player or impose universal restrictions. Since the latter will never happen because the NFL will do anything rather than force out a superstar in the prime of his career who says "I know the risks and I want to keep playing," I see where you're coming from - I just worry that it's not fair.

As for fining other teams for causing concussions, do you mean for illegal hits or for *any* hit that causes a concussion? That's the other part that I'm not sure about. I think a fine shouldn't be levied based on the outcome of a hit but based on its legality (and if the NFL feels that there are hits that are legal but too dangerous in terms of leading to concussions, then they should change the rules).

173 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I like the idea of having teams pay money if their own players get concussions.

I wouldn't call it a fine though. I would just say they have to donate to a concussion fund. I wouldn't count it against the salary cap either.

Of course this would make teams and players even less likely to report concussions.

177 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

As long as the person is "otherwise able to the job." If getting beat on the head is a requirement of the job, then you can discriminate against people who have shown they can't withstand the requirements.

178 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I hope you're being ironic here. "Otherwise able" means that you can discrimiate against blind people when filling the job of bus driver and people without hands for jobs that require sign language. It's a big leap to say that someone has had concussions in the past, and our job requires people getting concussions, therefore we can legally discriminate.

179 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

No I said getting beat on the head is a requirement. Having multiple concussions shows that a person can't get beat on the head safely. It may be that no one can, in which case football needs to change. That change could just mean less heading beating however, which some people can withstand, which is why different football players have different numbers of concussions.

108 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I read about an NFL team that put accelerometers on the front of every player's helmets at the start of training camp. Apparently they took one look at the data after the first practice session, were absolutely terrified and took them all off immediately.

115 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

"First - data about blows to the head. It's possible to measure the force of every blow to the head by putting accelerometers in a helmet. Helmets with accelerometers have already been made. So why aren't they being used? Why not make accelerometers part of the standard helmet, for NFL games and practices, so we can keep track of the force of every blow to the head that happens?"

Because the NFLPA throws a shitfit every time they try to improve the helmets.

There have been better helmets available for decades. The players refuse to wear them.

145 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

The NFL requires players to wear thigh and hip pads, and some players refuse to wear them, but the NFL doesn't punish them. Instead, they go after players who wear the wrong color shoes or socks. The NFL could require players to wear improved helmets, but they won't either. One wonders why...

151 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

On Goodell's conference call with Steeler season ticketholders last year, he was asked why the league couldn't mandate that players use better helmets. His response was that while they continue to do research and make information available to clubs and players, if a player has been concussion-free wearing a particular helmet in high school and college, and "If we tell them to wear a different helmet, that creates liability issues..."

167 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

"The NFL requires players to wear thigh and hip pads"
No they don't! Hell, Charles Woodson barely wears shoulder pads...and most receivers, if not all, wear no padding below the waist.

162 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Rodgers changed his helmet after his concussion issues, and hasn't had a single problem since. It just seems like common sense, so frustrating that more players don't make the switch. Are aesthetics that important?


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

60 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

First and last, I appreciate this take on the concussion issue. It has a lot more "I don't know" and "we don't understand this yet" than you normally see from this kind of article.

One quibble:
"I have witnessed terrifying collisions on high school fields, and have also seen hundreds of young boys use football to enhance their self-esteem, community pride, and character, in addition to their ability to run fast and hit hard."

How many of those young boys could have used soccer, baseball or basketball to do the same things? Football doesn't have a monopoly on character-building, even among sports. It's possible that the intensely cooperative nature of the game makes it better at that ... but there's not really any evidence for this one way or another.

This is why, when my son shows an interest in team sports, I will gently steer him towards the others. (Fortunately, while he may be athletic, he's unlikely to have the size required to play football at even the high school level.)

62 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Well, a few of them, like me, were hefty and strong but kind of uncoordinated, so football was one of the few sports they could have success with by playing in the trenches.

And football as the high school King of Sports, the reason for the Homecoming game, the sport of aspiration, is still pretty big, even at schools I worked at where baseball was the sport much more likely to bring a state championship. I suppose we could do away with football and make baseball or soccer that sport, but it is not something to toss away idly, and it won't go down without a fight.

63 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

My high school football team stunk. The soccer team was better and had about the same fan interest, but homecoming was in the Spring during lacrosse season. 40% of the enrollment tried out for organized lacrosse.

80 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

So you went to school in a region that includes northern Virginia, the Baltimore-DC area, eastern PA, New Jersey, Upstate New York, and the coastal part of southern New England?

92 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Yes, and speaking of concussions I saw Franz Wittelsberger layout Roddy Rullman. Rullman was taken off on a stretcher. The biggest hit I ever saw at a lacrosse game.

64 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

One thing to think of is that Football is so specialized that a lot of different kinds of people can play it. Under 6' tall and even in high school, you're not likely to be a good basketball player.

Football has everything from short fast people, to tall fat people and everything in between.

71 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

I think it's less about the diversity and more about the fact that football has by far the largest roster of any sport. I can't even remember if my high school football team even made any cuts.

76 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Baseball better fits that description than football

I am not going to enter in a lengthy debate. Just that I don't see that with football nearly to the degree as baseball

81 Re: Walkthrough: Concussions

Baseball is hand eye coordination. Have to be able to throw or hit really well to be worth anything in baseball. You don't need those fine motor skills for the majority of positions in football.