On day one of two-a-days in mid-August, I was exhausted, and I was playing linebacker. I was also confused as the whole world spun around and around. I didn’t know how it happened, but I knew I had a concussion. My confused thoughts went something like: “I must have a concussion. No, wait. If I’m aware enough to think that I might have a concussion, then I can’t actually have one, right?” So, I finished practice and after showering off I asked the trainer, “Could I have an Advil? I have a really bad headache.”

This picture was taken three days after my initial concussion. Look into my eyes. Can't you tell something's off?
This picture was taken three days after my initial concussion. Look into my eyes. Can’t you tell something’s off?

“Sure. I just have to do a few tests to make sure you don’t have a concussion first. I’m required to. Just remember these five words…”

To this day, I have no idea what words he said.

A few days later I took a longer, more detailed concussion test to compare my reaction time and memory to a baseline that I had taken a month earlier. And I failed.

I took it again a week later. And I failed again. And again.

And finally three-and-a-half weeks after getting decked that fateful August morning, I was cleared.

All the while, I couldn’t go into bright sunlight, couldn’t even think of watching TV, and lived on Disneyland’s teacups for three-straight weeks.

I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.[1]

According to PBS, I’m not alone. There have already been 62 diagnosed concussions in the NFL this year, and another PBS report found that high school football players are twice as likely to sustain a concussion than those who play in college.

Last week, Roger Goddell blamed the rise in knee injuries on shoes.
Last week, Roger Goddell blamed the rise in knee injuries on shoes.

From experience, I can tell you that concussions are still a threat to football, and I applaud Goodell for the changes he’s made. A little late, yes, but he has made significant strides in the right direction. Concussion numbers are down 72% from last year. In reducing concussions though, Goodell has opened a whole new can of worms. The smaller “strike zone” defenders have to hit someone has made knee injury numbers to skyrocket.

Yes, I can tell you about this one too. From experience.

On the last play of my first game back from my concussion, I was blocking North Hollywood’s defensive tackle when he tripped, and his mammoth body trapped my foot underneath it. Of course, the one play that the running back gets tackled into the back of my knee is the same play that my leg was trapped under a human Sasquatch. A 360° twist later, my meniscus and MCL were torn. Somehow I managed to run off the field, but after those few steps, I was on crutches for a month, and I am still rehabbing now.

Today, this would barely be mentioned online.
Today, this would barely be mentioned online.

Just seven short years ago, a torn MCL and ACL landed Carson Palmer on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Today, the same injuries only make ESPN.com’s front page for a few hours. They’re that common.

The NFL is in the business of making money, and they can’t do so without players. If the trends continue and seven or fewer years from now, players are lost for the season week after week after week, there might be another Sports Illustrated cover. This one, though, will ask the question: “What should we do about knee injuries?”.

The NFL will have to do something. Without healthy, skilled players and content fans, there is no NFL.

But at the same time, the NFL can’t do anything. The only rule change possible to reduce the amount of blown out knees is to eliminate hits to the knee. This change would only allow defenders to hit from the waist to the shoulders, effectively eliminating defense along with football’s soul.

So what can Roger Goodell and the NFL do? I honestly don’t know. Nobody does. The league has to do something but at the same time, they can’t do much. Doing nothing would be detrimental to the players. Doing something would be detrimental to the game.

It’s an interesting discussion, and I can’t think of an answer.


[1] AKA this guy  johnnyDOLLARS

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