This piece on Steve Largent and the concussion debate is profoundly saddening. Largent spent some time as a Republican congressman, so it should come as no surprise that he’s a little Randian on the matter:
“If studies come out and show that playing football is detrimental to your health for the long term, even for the short term, I think that’s up to the players then to make the decision about whether they’re going to play or not play,” Largent said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Peter Cook for “Capitol Gains,” which airs Feb. 2.
“They should be armed with all of the latest statistics and information and research,” added Largent, who now represents the nation’s wireless industry as president of CTIA- The Wireless Association. “We don’t need the government telling people what they can and can’t do.”
Some of that is no doubt a knee-jerk reaction to Obama’s recent comments on the matter and some of it’s a downright naive assessment of the NFL’s readiness to take charge and make things right. (Does anybody think Goodell would give a rat’s ass about the problem if it wasn’t for the threat of multiple lawsuits? And last time I checked, Steve, a court ruling is the government telling people what they can and can’t do.)
But that’s not the depressing part. This is.
Largent said he had multiple concussions throughout college and his NFL career, including one during his next-to-last season in which he was knocked unconscious before hitting the ground.
Largent said he’s “really curious” about the impact of concussions on NFL players and is currently participating in a study at the University of North Carolina. Largent also had a stroke at the age of 50 that he says the experts he’s consulted believe isn’t connected to his NFL career.
Largent considers himself fortunate to still be in relatively good health, running five or six miles every other day and playing tennis two to three times a week. Largent also said he remains the NFL’s “biggest fan,” despite lingering concerns about the head injuries he suffered as a player.
“The more studies that come out that talk about concussions and so forth, it makes me wonder,” Largent said. “I wonder, more importantly than the stroke, the impact that concussions have had on my life, particularly as I get older.”
Wow. Does Largent think he was armed with all the latest research to make an informed decision at the time? Of course he wasn’t, because it wasn’t an area of major concern then. But now he trusts the NFL to make an honest effort to do so? If that’s right, it’s only because it’s been pushed from outside.
Obama wasn’t threatening to seek legislation if the NCAA didn’t move forward on the issue. But he was expressing a concern that enough wasn’t being done to provide player safety and that the NCAA needed to get off its ass and take charge or risk having others take control of the issue away from it. If that’s government telling people what to do, maybe the NCAA needs to hear more of it.