NFL Joins Military On Traumatic Brain Injuries

June 16th, 2012

Traumatic brain injury attorney Matt Dolman shares the latest in the world of brain injuries on the Dolman Law Group blog, and Joe thought this blog below was especially relevant, as the causes and effects of traumatic brain injuries are reverberating across the NFL. 

The NFL has decided to enlist the help of some of the nation’s finest to tackle the issue of concussions. In early May, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with the U.S. Army’s Chief of staff, Raymond T. Odierno, to discuss a partnership between the NFL, the U.S. Army and Marines. That meeting has since yielded a series of meetings at the Pentagon between military leaders, NFL coaches, current and former NFL players, and medical personnel from both sides. 

The idea is to use the relationship to improve player and soldier awareness of the dangers associated with traumatic brain injuries

Similarities between the two groups seem to be the reason for the partnership. The duty to serve the man next to you is inherent in the military.  Units must tactically work together to achieve a common mission; just like NFL players, sitting the bench is not an option for many soldiers. At the second of the pentagon meetings, Staff Sergeant Shawn Hibbard described a soldier’s mentality. “If I can walk, I can fight…” he said. 

And that’s not a foreign sentiment to NFL players. For decades, the toughest football players have been rewarded by teams and fans for playing through the pain of concussions and other injuries. Of course, during these meetings, the question of what makes a soldier or a football player ignore the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) came up; and the answers to that question from both groups may be exactly why the leaders of each side see the partnership as a step in the right direction.

Ignoring Traumatic Brain Injuries

Major General Stephen R. Lanza explained that U.S. soldiers often won’t take themselves off the battlefield, “Because the guy on my left and on my right, trust that I’ll be there.” Similarly, the players in attendance explained that possible injuries and physical pain because of the motivation to help the team and their teammates. 

While the duty to the man or woman standing next to you is essential to the success of military units and football teams, the fallout from widespread ignorance on the severity of concussions has weighed heavily on both groups in recent years. Some surveys show more than half of former NFL players (6 in 10) have suffered concussions; almost a third have suffered three or more.  Of the more than 2 million American Army and Marine soldiers that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 10 percent (230,000) have suffered TBI.

The devastating medical effects of compounding brain injuries over time have only recently come to light. To NFL executive vice President Paul Hicks, it’s become clear that “rubbing dirt on it and going back on the field” is an outlook that needs to be retired. This year the NFL’s rookie symposium will have current players explaining the dangers of concussions to rookies, a newly implemented preventative measure. 

Military In The Locker Room

The pentagon meetings have yielded a loose plan to mutually benefit both groups. Each group’s leadership hopes that U.S. Soldiers visiting NFL locker rooms and NFL players giving talks in the barracks will be part of an expensive program using the experiences from both sides to persuade soldiers and players to appreciate the severity of brain injuries. 

Fewer permanently injured NFL and Military retirees is the ultimate goal, but the extent of the newly formed partnership is undecided.  This is a step in the right direction for improving the health and safety of soldiers and football players at all levels. A high school player who recognizes that NFL stars like Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald are telling them to take head injuries seriously, may become more apt to tell the coach about getting his bell rung and see stars after a hit.

During the second NFL pentagon meeting, former running back Brian Westbrook put it best, “It has to start with the kids”.  He wants kids to grow up understanding that, “this [concussions] isn’t just part of the sport.  It’s way more serious than that and it has to be treated the right way”. Westbrook’s sentiment is right; coaches and players at every level need to understand the dangers of brain trauma and treat these injuries with the necessary care.

The injury law attorneys at Dolman Law Group serve clients across Florida from offices in Clearwater, Bradenton and Melboune.

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