The latest in health and safety news surrounding football — and more:
* The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a series on health in football. The first part examined how players lose and gain weight while trying to stay healthy.
Ask one Packer after another and most will say they’ve had to gain weight at some point to get to the NFL. Some bulk up to play a certain position, others plan to drop 100 pounds when their playing days end. But is there such a thing as too much weight, even for an elite athlete? Most doctors used to say flatly yes. Anything more than 300 pounds was considered morbidly obese. Today, that is a more complicated discussion when it comes to the NFL player who is more muscle than fat, more fit than flab. In Green Bay, about 25% of the Packers weigh more than 275 pounds and they don’t all carry big bellies. In fact, most are solid with defined upper bodies and checked tummies. This generation of linemen is big but not blubbery. Can it be healthy to carry all that weight?
Part two examined pain and the variety of ways in which players manage it.
It may be swollen knees or noisy joints, pinched nerves or aching backs, strained muscles that leave players stiff and sore. ”In medicine, one of the great unknowns is pain,” said Douglas McKeag, professor emeritus at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. “We don’t really know a whole lot about it. We know it works in the spinal cortical system and the brain. But pain is a very, very personal thing. Everyone tends to respond to pain really differently.” From Tylenol, ibuprofen and prescription drugs, to hot and cold tubs, massages and other nonmedicinal therapies, NFL players have a lot of choices to lessen their pain. What’s healthy and safe for the long term – well, that’s a different matter entirely.
And part three was focused on concussions and how players have become more aware of the dangers of head injuries.
One Packers veteran who played within the last five years – and who did not want to be identified – said even with proper technique, he suffered and played through concussions. The protocol, even just a few years ago, was to report the symptoms but keep right on playing if possible. “Yeah, that’s the culture,” he said. “I’ll give the NFL credit. Over the last two years, they’ve done a much better job taking this on, of protecting guys from themselves. But the culture is always going to be: You need to be out there, trying to help your team win. I don’t see that changing.” Now that he’s retired, he worries what damage the concussions have done to his brain. It’s almost a sick waiting game to see if he’ll deteriorate. ”When you sign up to play, everyone knows there’s some risk,” said the player . “I expected some knee and shoulder issues. Guys talk about it all the time — ‘Well, you signed up for this.’ But I don’t think guys sign up for traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson’s and ALS and all these other things that have been linked to repeated head blows. “Anybody who tells you they’re not at least a little concerned is lying to you.”
* The Yale Daily News reported that the Ivy League is voting Wednesday on tougher rules for concussions for men’s and women’s hockey. The league already has some of the most stringent concussion-prevention rules in football.
* The Daily Illini wrote that the NCAA and college football coaches should make a higher priority of dealing with concussions.
* Delaware Online wrote about Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek, who is likely to see his consecutive games streak end this week after suffering a concussion last week.
* A Pasadena Star-News columnist said turning pro football into flag football would make it a far better game.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor