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Rated: E · Essay · Educational · #2082577
The outcome of receiving multiple concussions while playing in the NFL
         Amani Burton
The Price of Fame

                   It was a cold October night. I was sleep deprived, but I still managed to find a way to drag myself out of bed and to football practice. I pondered why I was even going to practice even though I had a test the next day that had not studied for. Then I had a flashback to the last person who skipped out on practice; and remembered how much conditioning he had to do when he returned. The moment I stepped out of my car, the cold, frigid air hit me and I immediately regretted leaving my hoodie and Chap Stick at home. I walked into the locker room to see the usual scenery: half naked teenagers reminiscing about how good the dance team looked last Friday in their new uniforms, and people frantically putting their practice jerseys back on their shoulder pads before practice. The locker room always smelled like a gas station bathroom on steroids; people did not know what personal hygiene was. We just won a hard fought game the previous Friday and received the weekend to recover. This week, we were playing our rival, so our coaches did not even have to motivate us for a Monday practice. Monday practices lived up to the stereotype of being sluggish and lethargic, but this practice felt different. My teammates were motivated and it was evident during our scrimmages. The combination of teenage testosterone, screaming coaches, and playing under the lights led to an intensified practice. Towards the end of practice, my teammates were jeering at each other after every play; and a big play by the offense or defense led to excessive celebrations. I wanted to be one of those players that made a big play, so I focused on defending the pass so I could intercept the ball. The play came. The quarterback dropped back to pass. He looked over to my side, no one was open. He looked left and found his man on the sideline. He threw the ball and everyone waited in anticipation to see who would come down with it. My teammate intercepted the ball and in a split second I started running down the field to lead block for him. He ran in the opposite direction of me and paid dearly for it. He was smacked hard by our tight end and his helmet flew ten yards backwards. I ran over and picked his helmet up.
                   '"You okay man? Your chin strap needs to be put on again," I said to him.
                   "Yeah man, I'm good. That hit was nothing." he said.
         He played the next couple of downs, but later went to the trainer to go under concussion protocol. He tried hiding his concussion from the coaches and he failed. Football players, especially professional players, are prone to receiving concussions every time they put a helmet on. Concussions are a part of the sport, and players know the consequences of playing football; but their desire of the playing football outweighs the risk of injury. Who would not want to play football? The NFL is associated with money, fame, and players who play are known as elite athletes. But is it really worth all of the head trauma and injuries later down the road? I believe that most people who play in the NFL will be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after they retire because of the amount of head injuries they will receive during their career.
                   Think of the NFL as a ticking time bomb. Every collision leads to more health issues when you are older. It does not sound fun receiving a knee replacement while in your mid 50's, but that is what these college players sign up for when declaring themselves eligible for the draft. College players get drafted and receive their first million dollar paychecks for living out their dreams. But in reality, they are signing up for repetitive head trauma through concussions. If you are lucky, rookies will walk away from their first year intact; but others are not that lucky. Some players end up on the Injured Reserve list before the season even starts due to the rigorous offseason programs teams have. Imagine training every day since the end of the last season just to tear your pectoral muscle during a team lift or tear your Achilles tendon while participating in offseason conditioning. If you do make it to the regular season, you have to worry about making it out of every game in one piece. Last year, a rookie for the San Francisco 49ers, Chris Borland, went from being a nice late round draft steal to being on the front page of the sports world for retiring early. He lasted one year in the NFL and he retired because he did not want to be one of those guys that had severe head trauma in their early 40's. He got a taste of what the NFL was like and left with his body still healthy. It is rare to see a NFL player's career last longer than 15 seasons. Runningbacks last an average of six years in the NFL, eight if they are lucky. That is why I like to refer to the NFL as the "Not For Long", because it is rare to walk away from the NFL healthy. Chris played the position most prone to receiving head trauma in the NFL: linebacker. If Chris retired after one year, imagine the toll football would have on someone who played 20 seasons at linebacker. Junior Seau played a gruesome 20 years in the NFL and he totaled over 1800 tackles at the end of his career. Three years after he retired, he committed suicide because of the repetitive head trauma he received over the last 20 years of his life. Many players suffer from CTE like he did, and they all banded together to sue the NFL for giving them brain damage. The NFL reached a settlement with the players union and retired players received a compensation for receiving concussions during their career.          
                   Playing in the NFL does not necessarily mean you will suffer from CTE after you retire. The NFL is changing the game to try to prevent concussions. They are doing so by limiting the weekly practice hours teams have. Along with that, technological innovations in helmets and shoulder pads allow for less harmful collisions between players as the equipment absorbs more of the hit than previous ones. The game is safer because players are now being fined for hitting defenseless players and for illegal hits. Along with changes to the rules, teams are trying to keep their players safe through new tackling techniques. The Seattle Seahawks practice something called the "Hawk Tackle", which teaches their players to tackle with their shoulders and legs, instead of leading {with your head. This type of tackling was taken from rugby, a sport that is played without any padding at all. Within the next couple of years, more and more teams will start using this form of tackling. But even with all of these new precautions, concussions cannot be 100 percent prevented. After last year's Super Bowl, NFL players were surveyed on if they would play in the Super Bowl with a concussion. A surprising amount of players said yes to that question, and it shows that players are willing to risk their future to play in the biggest game of their lives. Apparently the risk of head trauma is worth it when it comes to playing in the Super Bowl. These players know the risks of playing through head injuries like: getting fined (NFL players get fined on average the same amount of money that students pay in one semester of tuition to attend ASU!), possibly getting suspended, and the obvious risk of head injuries. Yet the players go behind the trainer's and organization's back to hide these harmful injuries.
                   With all of the revenue the NFL generates, they do it at the expense of the players. It is the modern day version of gladiators with modified rules. Watching players give each other brain trauma, is the new form of entertainment. Maybe the millions these players make is worth it to them. But once these players put the pads on and walk onto the field, the clock starts ticking, and they can only watch their life span shorten, one hit at a time.

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