PEYTON MANNING, 38, 15-year veteran quarterback formerly with Indianapolis and currently with Denver, admitted in an ESPN.com interview to intentionally scoring low on his baseline concussion tests so it would be easier to get clearance to play after a concussion. The Super Bowl Champion and 5-time NFL MVP said, “So I just try to do badly on the first test.” Interviewer Rick Reilly said that Manning was not joking. Given his enormous fame and status in the game, his statement could influence kids and young men to do the same, putting them at risk for Second Impact Syndrome, which can be fatal. Among NFL players, Manning is not alone in using this ruse. Manning had multiple neck surgeries to extend his career.—“Peyton Manning admits to tanking baseline concussions tests”, NBCsports.com 4/27/11, posted by Mike Florio.
“It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems.”—Greg Aiello, NFL Senior VP/PR, to the NY Times in 11/09, quoted in “Pain Point”, Bloomberg Businessweek 2/4-2/10/13, Paul M. Barrett.
“30 years from now, I don’t think pro football will be in existence.”—Bernard Pollard, Baltimore safety, to CBS Sports, quoted in Businessweek above.
2000 American Academy of Neurology findings based on a survey of 1094 former NFL players: “51% had been knocked unconscious more than once, 73% of those injured said they were not required to sit on the sidelines after head trauma, and 31% subsequently had difficulty with memory.” (Businessweek above.)
WES WELKER, 33, 10-year veteran receiver formerly with New England and currently with Denver, received a concussion on a hard hit from KC safety Eric Berry in a game on 11/17/13 and was examined by doctors on the sideline, cleared, and re-inserted in the game minutes later. Trainers later noticed possible concussion symptoms and pulled him out of the game for good. In the meantime, Welker was put at risk of Second Impact Syndrome (SIS), a possibly fatal condition where a player receives a second concussion before the symptoms from the first have gone away. This sequence of events calls into serious question the NFL’s sideline protocol for evaluating concussions during a game.—“Hochman: NFL concussion protocol failed Broncos’ Welker”, Denver Post 11/19/13, Benjamin Hochman. 8/25/14 Update: Welker was concussed for the third time since 11/17/13 in an 8/24/14 preseason game versus Houston (the other concussion occurred on 12/8/13 versus Tennessee). There is talk in the public domain and on social media about whether he should retire.—“Fox: Wes Welker in good spirits”, ESPN.com 8/25/14, Jeff Legwold.
Riddell, the NFL’s official helmet manufacturer since 1989, marketed its Revolution helmet with claims that players who wore it were 31% less likely to suffer a concussion, a figure criticized by leading experts on head injuries and some members of Congress. In a Colorado lawsuit in April 2013, Riddell was found liable for $3.1 million, which was awarded to the family of a young man who was seriously injured after a concussion in a high school football practice. More than 2 million Revolution helmets were sold between 2002 and 2008. In January 2011 Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission about what he called misleading safety claims and deceptive practices in the helmet industry.—“Report warned Riddell about helmets”, ESPN.com 5/1/13, Sabrina Shankman of PBS Frontline.
JAHVID BEST, 25, running back with Detroit, 2010-2012, has filed a lawsuit against the NFL on the grounds that it “was aware of the evidence and the risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries…but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information.” Equipment company Riddell, which manufactures the NFL’s helmets, also was named in the suit. Best suffered at least 5 concussions in his career, 3 at Detroit and 2 at Cal, where his college career ended on a dramatic flying touchdown on 11/7/09. After hurdling one Oregon State defender at the goal line, he was hit by another, which propelled him even higher before he landed on his head/back as his helmet flew off. He was wheeled off with a neck brace and oxygen attached, taken from Memorial Stadium field in an ambulance, having suffered a severe concussion on his last college play. Not medically cleared to take the field by August 2013, he was released by Detroit prior to the season.—“Jahvid Best suing NFL over concussions”, si.com 1/28/14, Chris Burke referencing the Detroit Free Press, which first reported the filing. “Best to mix studies, coaching on campus”, SF Chronicle 2/21/14, John Crumpacker.
AL TOON, 51, receiver with the NY Jets, 1985-92, had at least 9 concussions before retiring at 29. He suffers from post-concussion syndrome, a chronic condition. The 1986 AFC Player of the Year completed a triathalon in 2004 and is on the boards of several organizations. He’s had residual effects from his condition, but won’t go into detail because he doesn’t want sympathy. His son, Nick Toon, is a receiver with New Orleans.
WAYNE CHREBET, 41, receiver with the NY Jets, 1995-2005, retired at 31 after his sixth concussion. 11/6/05: Knocked out cold by a hit after a catch. “I always said they were going to have to carry me off the field to get me to retire. Unfortunately they did.” Has good and bad days, some things get better, some worse. Wouldn’t discuss details because he doesn’t want sympathy. “Concerned about long-term effects.” Works in finance and is married with 3 sons.—“2 Ex-Jets Have Moved On, but Concussion Effects Linger”, NY Times 11/20/11, William C. Rhoden.
TED JOHNSON, 42, linebacker with New England, 1995-2004, seldom left the house for 2 years after retiring. The 3-time Super Bowl winner became addicted to amphetamines, suffered from depression, sleep disorder, and throbbing headaches related to post-concussion syndrome and second impact syndrome, a condition where a player receives a second concussion before the symptoms from the first have cleared (which can be fatal). Given to angry outbursts, he and his wife were both arrested in an alleged domestic dispute on 7/16/06 and divorced in 12/06. Johnson claims that Coach Belichick pressured him into participating in full contact drills just 3 days after sustaining a concussion, against the advice of the team’s head trainer. He sustained a second concussion during the drills. He showed signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2007.—“NFL: Concussions are game’s dark side”, NY Times, 2/2/07, Alan Schwarz. “Dead athletes brains show damage from concussions”, CNN 1/28/09, Stephanie Smith. Also AP/ESPN Boston 5/18/12 and the Boston Globe 2/07.
SEAN MOREY, 38, wide receiver and special teamer with New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Arizona, 1999-2009, acknowledged playing with a concussion while with Arizona in 2009. This despite being named co-chair of the NFL Players Association concussion and traumatic brain injury committee the previous month. He said the issue is complicated by the players’ obligation and desire to play, no matter what. Morey said he’s had more concussions than he’d like to admit and felt like he was “tased in the head with a taser” on some hits. He was once knocked out and taken off the field, and when he came around he wanted to go back out there—and this was only practice. He was angry when he couldn’t because they’d hidden his helmet.—Same movie as above. “Morey says he downplayed symptoms”, ESPN.com 11/12/09, from AP. “EX-PAT MOREY TO ADDRESS BROWN SESSION ON HEAD INJURIES”, brownbears.com 4/25/10, by Providence Journal’s Jim Donaldson.
Morey, along with fellow ex-players Alan Faneca, Ben Hamilton, Robert Royal, Rock Cartwright, Jeff Rohrer and Sean Considine filed a court motion on 5/5/14 to challenge the $765 million NFL concussion settlement, arguing that the deal falls short of covering the most serious cases of disease related to head trauma. The 7 players say they are suffering from maladies such as sensitivity to noise, visual impairments, chronic pain, intermittent depression, problems with sleep, memory deficits, and other problems that are precursors to CTE. Even though these conditions could result in CTE in later years, the settlement proposal offers no payments for their conditions and would bar any future claims, they say.—“Players contest NFL concussion deal”, ESPN.com 5/5/14, Lester Munson.