By Joe Giordano || Staff Writer
Two weeks ago, Dallas Cowboys fans were rejoicing at the news that their star quarterback Tony Romo was returning from his clavicle injury he suffered early on in the season. After falling to 2-7, the Cowboys were doing everything they possibly could to get their quarterback on the field in the hopes of remaining in the playoff hunt. However, those dreams were sent crashing to the ground after Romo re-injured himself in a Thanksgiving Day game against the Panthers. Now that Romo is officially out for the season, the question becomes: Did the Cowboys rush their quarterback back into playing too soon without proper regard for his health?
There is a startling and unnerving tendency in professional sports to try to play through serious injuries in order to help your team win. It is a preconceived notion that if you can’t play through these injuries, you are letting your team down and are considered a baby or not a team player. In addition, it is known that trainers are told to turn a blind eye to injuries that may keep the team’s best players out of action for anytime, which can eventually lead to serious long-lasting injuries. This culture of not taking injuries as serious as they should be needs to be thoroughly addressed by the NFL and other professional sports leagues.
While the injuries these athletes are suffering may not appear to be life-threatening on the surface, their long-term effects are unknown at the time of the injury. The NFL recently had an out of court settlement with thousands of its former players for over 900 million dollars over its lackluster efforts in the field of on field concussions. Many former players sued the NFL over the lack of information given to them on the seriousness of concussions and the lack of steps they took in order to make the game safer for the athletes. While the NFL (arguably only after they had to pay 900 million dollars in fees) is beginning to take steps in the right direction in that respect, they are not doing nearly enough.
These players are not just machines who put their bodies on the line each and every week for our entertainment. They are human beings with families and have the right just like anyone else to a safe work environment. Many of these athletes, due to the stress and strain without proper education on injuries, are unable to perform routine tasks 10 years down the road, which is a sad fact. If a former NFL player wants to throw a football around with his son later on his life but played through a concussion he was told was not a big deal by a trainer, he may be unable to do so due to brain trauma and other neurological issues. Look at the case of Junior Seau for example. After several undiagnosed concussions, Seau committed suicide after battling bouts of depression and sleep disorders. Had he received the proper education on his concussion issues or not been told he could play through them, a different scenario could have played out other than his unfortunate and sad death.
While the NFL is clearly taking steps in the right direction, there are still clearly flaws in the current system. St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum suffered a concussion during a game and was able to convince the training staff to allow him to remain in the game. While he is currently on concussion protocol set forth by the NFL, the damage done to his brain by continuing to play is unknown. With this culture of “toughing it out”, Keenum felt that by being truthful about his concussion he may be ridiculed by the team or may lose the playing time he was earning. While winning and losing is an important aspect of the sports culture, it can’t completely consume the players’ heads. Yes, the millions of dollars they could lose by losing a starting job due to proper reporting of a concussion are substantial; can you really put a price on a future with your kids or a life filled without brain trauma and other issues?
I hope the cases of Romo, Keenum, and most importantly Seau, serve as driving forces behind the NFL’s continued movement towards a safe game. With the billions of dollars the players provide the NFL through the sacrifice they put themselves through, it is only fair that the NFL in turn makes some sacrifices of their own, even if it means losing a few bucks out of their own pocket.
Sophomore Joe Giordano is a staff writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.