At the 1:59 mark of this video, you see New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski administer a hit that resulted in a concussion for Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. In the recent AFC title game, Gronkowski suffered a concussion from a hit to the head by Jaguars safety Barry Church.
Gronkowski has been cleared to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
The NFL doesn’t care whose brains are scrambled. One of its greatest stars, former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, knows how dangerous the sport is:
[I]t’s the dangerous side of football that preoccupies Favre the most these days. “I cringe,” he said, “when I see video, or I’m driving and I see little kids out playing, and they’re all decked out in their football gear and the helmet looks like it’s three times bigger than they are. It’s kind of funny, but it’s not as funny now as it was years ago, because of what we know now. I just cringe seeing a fragile little boy get tackled and the people ooh and ahh and they just don’t know. Or they don’t care. It’s just so scary.”
The Hall of Fame quarterback, known for a high-risk and freewheeling style during his 20-year playing career, worries about concussions, traumatic brain injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. He also worries about what he calls “the whiplash effect” he sustained every time his head hit the ground, even after less dramatic hits. In a recent conversation with The Washington Post, Favre guessed that he saw stars or felt ringing in his ears “at least once a game,” and said that while he can’t complain about his current health, he remains worried about his medical future.
“I took my share of hits,” he said. “I’m reluctant to pat myself on the back at all because tomorrow it could be totally different. I think that’s what we’re seeing with concussions. All of a sudden someone comes to the forefront, and talks about how they can’t remember where they live, what their wife’s name is, how to get home. They’re having serious headaches and dizziness. So I’m always on edge wondering what the next day will bring.”
He’s not the only one:
Steve Young was sacked by Aeneas Williams on Sept. 27, 1999. Young’s head was slammed to the ground. One of the great quarterbacks of his era never played football again.
Young’s concussion — not his first — ended his career at age 37, while he was still at the top of his game. He officially retired from the 49ers at the end of that season. In a conversation about Chris Borland’s surprise retirement from football at age 24, Young said his own health is good but he is tortured by what he sees happening to many of the men he played with and against.
“It’s awful. It’s scary,” Young said. “My generation, people who played with me, they’re suffering from football.”
Young, like others, notes that the decision is different today than it was for players in his era.
The brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy “has changed the nature of the risk,” Young said. “This generation is growing up with knowledge that we didn’t have. There will be a wide variety of decisions made and this — retiring early — is one of them.
Favre and Young played at one of the most protected positions on a football field. Imagine what it is for a lineman who gets hit in the head on practically every play.
Meanwhile, we think this is cute: