Friday, November 1, 2013

Pre-concussion Syndrome?

Pro football is like nuclear warfare.  There are no winners, only survivors.  ~Frank Gifford

Concussions have become a big topic in sports, particularly in football, but also in soccer, auto racing, and others I'm sure.  Years ago, it was nothing to hear that a player had suffered "a mild concussion" and find him back in the game a little later.  Then all those players got older and dementia began setting in right, left, and sideways.  Then the attorneys got into it.  THEN, the NFL and others began to think seriously about what was going on.

Of course, it doesn't help that coaches, when they weren't teaching holding techniques to the offensive line, were teaching defensive players to clothesline receivers and make tackles leading with their helmets.  All of this led to more players being carried off the field, while the coaches (and the fans) cheered a "great hit."

Finally, the NFL and the NCAA (because college players can hire lawyers, too) realized this had to stop, so "anti-targeting" rules went into force this year.  Basically, this is the business, if I understand it correctly, of lining up a defenseless player in the crosshairs and deliberately whacking him, possibly with intent to injure. 

These sorts of rules are difficult to judge.  It's straightforward to call a hit to the head or a horse-collar tackle.  It's something else to determine in some cases what the intent was.  But you've got to start somewhere.  Targeting in the pros will buy you a fine, which can get heftier on repeat offenses.  In college, it buys you an ejection and/or a suspension.  Which brings us to Danny Kannell. 

Mr. Kannell used to be a quarterback at Florida State before bouncing around the NFL and Arena Football League.  He is now a color announcer for ESPN.  During a recent game, he was lamenting that one team had a player suspended for the first half because of a targeting penalty assessed in his last game.  Now, Mr. Kannell took issue with the penalty, saying it was way too severe.  Keep in mind, we're talking about being sat down for one half of a game, not for six games or the like.  Of course, one can argue whether the officiating call was right or whether the suspension, which was issued after a post-game review by the conference (I think).  However, Mr. Kannell's gripe was that they had the penalty at all.  His reasoning? 

"Concussions are part of the game."

Apparently, Mr. Kannell got hit in the head a few times during his career. 

Concussions are a part of the game that the powers that be are trying to remove.  It's certainly not necessary to have a player knocked silly and seeing two of everything to have a great game.

I wonder if Mr. Kannell saw this article about Bret Favre that came out after Kannell's brilliant observation.  Perhaps, Mr. Favre's message will get him thinking about concussions being "part of the game."

As if Mr. Kannell's stupidity wasn't enough, along comes Brad Keselowski, a NASCAR driver.  Seems the Sprint Cup series wants to have baseline concussion testing to try to stem the number of drivers circling the track with blurry vision -- and on their way to having trouble remembering how many gears they have.

"This is not the field for doctors, " Mr. Keselowski opined.  "Let them play in their arena, and I'll play in mine."  He goes on that vein ("Doctors don't understand our sport" and such) displaying an incredible ignorance of the effects of concussions and what it is that doctors do.  Perhaps Mr. Keselowski longs for the good old days when a few fatalities a year was no big deal.  It was just "part of racing."  He should ask Ricky Craven, Steve Park, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. about driving or trying to come back to drive after suffering a concussion.

Heck, making statements like these, Mr. Keselowski may not have a brain to concuss.

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