MICHAEL RUSSELL

Opinion: Concussion consequences on players, not NFL

Sep 22, 2017, 2:29 PM
FILE - In this April 1, 2015 file photo, former New England Patriots NFL football player Aaron Hern...

FILE - In this April 1, 2015 file photo, former New England Patriots NFL football player Aaron Hernandez is led into the courtroom at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass., for his murder trial in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez's lawyer said Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool, File)

(AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool, File)

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is a convicted murderer and that was not the fault of the National Football League.

It’s not the NFL’s responsibility to award his wife and daughter with a payday after learning that Hernandez was suffering from Stage III chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative disease caused by numerous head injuries.

On Saturday, I will be coaching my 9-year-old son’s first football game — flag football, that is.

His freshly pressed Raiders jersey (I didn’t get to pick the team) sports a giant NFL logo on the back.

This is obviously an NFL push to announce to the world that the league is taking brain injuries seriously in promoting flag football in youth sports.

It’s a brilliant move.

But as we’ve been running through two weeks of practices leading up to our first game, I have seen the boys slamming into each other. They fall and hit their head on the ground and one was even inadvertently kicked by a teammate mid-play.

So, is my son free of the threat of brain injury because he’s playing flag football instead of tackle football?

Nope.

I know, as a parent and coach, that each of these kids are at risk of knocking their head on something. I have decided to take that risk, albeit a calculated one, and my son is on board.

I was speaking with a parent this week that has a 13-year-old son playing tackle football and is now introducing her 6-year-old son to tackle football.

That is the decision that they made for their children. They know, just like I do, that there are risks involved when it comes to youth football and head injuries. No one is hiding that from them.

Yet, we all make what we think is the best decision for our kids. You know, our rights as parents.

But, once again, this is an educated decision.

As a coach, I had to suffer through online concussion training. I have to know concussion protocols. I had to download the concussion app from the Centers for Disease Control.

Each of the steps was more education and another warning that playing football carries a risk of head injury.

Now, back to the NFL and their culpability when it comes to head injuries.

Going back to its inception, did anyone think that playing professional football was good for the body? Did anyone think that playing football was good for the head?

No!

We knew it was bad. That’s why we loved it. That’s why we still love it. It’s our nation’s version of gladiator sport.

That’s why the NFL is going to continue to simply placate us with ad campaigns and flag football jerseys.

They know we are never going to stop watching professional football. Their advertisers know that we will never stop watching, which is why they command $1 billion each season for a company to be an “official sponsor of the NFL.”

The NFL is also aware that, at the end of the day, deciding to play football is a personal choice. No one is being forced to play the game.

Therefore, the majority of the football brain injury culpability pie belongs to the individual player. Period!

Heck, football isn’t even the number one sport for brain injuries. That distinction belongs to women’s hockey.

The problem is that there is no professional women’s hockey league with billions of dollars in revenue to blame and sue.

Michael Russell

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Opinion: Concussion consequences on players, not NFL