Category Archives: The Body Is A Temple

“Where’s the stats?”

There seems to be some resistance in the coaching ranks to eliminating kickoffs.  I almost hate to say it, but Bobby Petrino has a point.

“They always come out and say it would help with concussions but nobody shows you the statistics,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “Does it really help? One year we didn’t like that the ball was being kicked out of the end zone so we moved it back so we’d get more returns. It’s kind of who’s the special interest on it. It’s always been a big part of the football game, but if it is causing injuries and it’s something that we need to take away to improve that, we could get away with it. But is it really?”

We know why the chatter’s there.  The NCAA is finally waking up, not out of some idealistic concern about players’ well being, but because the lawsuit threat is gaining serious traction.  Petrino’s right to insist that a knee-jerk reaction to that isn’t the best way to address the problem.  It’s just that it’s all the NCAA’s got right now to show the world — okay, plaintiffs’ lawyers — that it cares.

I hate to drag the NFL into the discussion, but if the schools want to show they’re truly getting serious, maybe the conferences ought to take a page out of this book and start fining the crap out of programs that don’t adhere to strict concussion policies.  Money seems to be the one language that every school understands these days.

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“Take their heads out of the game”

A University of Georgia researcher suggests that football rules need to focus on two things in an effort to reduce head injuries:

“When you combine a three-point stance with running a long distance, it results in the most severe head impacts,” said Schmidt, who studies concussions in the college’s department of kinesiology. “So that points toward a need for rule changes that emphasize the combination of the two if we’re going to reduce head impact severity.”

She also suggests that focused coaching would help.

Because the study focused on high school players, who have a tendency to change positions throughout their time on a team, she suggested coaches and administrators emphasize good tackling techniques by teaching proper head and body positioning.

Shockingly, no mention made there about targeting penalties or replay officials.  Eh, scientists.

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Kicking out the kickoff?

They’re talking about it — fairly seriously, from what it sounds like.

However, rules changes typically bubble up to the committee from coaches and administrators. The AFCA acts in an advisory role to the NCAA rules committee. The oversight committee vets any changes by the rules committee before approving them.

“I’m excited we’re starting to have this discussion,” said Todd Berry, AFCA executive director. “It looks like the data is skewed where we have more injuries on that play. If that’s the case, we have to look at eliminating the play, modifying the play, change blocking schemes.”

Berry spent 14 years as a head coach. He replaced Grant Teaff this year as the top AFCA executive.

“It’s a very, very, very in-depth conversation of how it [kickoffs] affects the game,” said Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, an AFCA trustee.

Don’t know what they would replace it with, but if they wind up with a straight out place-the-ball-on-the-30-and-go result, what impact would that have on walk-ons?  For that matter, what impact would it have on the 85-man scholarship limit?  Would you need the same roster size in a world without kickoffs?

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“It shouldn’t be a rigged game.”

This is revolting.  But not surprising.

At least a half-dozen top NFL health officials waged an improper, behind-the-scenes campaign last year to influence a major U.S. government research study on football and brain disease, congressional investigators have concluded in a new report.

The 91-page report describes how the NFL pressured the National Institutes of Health to strip the $16 million project from a prominent Boston University researcher and tried to redirect the money to members of the league’s committee on brain injuries. The study was to have been funded out of a $30 million “unrestricted gift” the NFL gave the NIH in 2012.

After the NIH rebuffed the NFL’s campaign to remove Robert Stern, an expert in neurodegenerative disease who has criticized the league, the NFL backed out of a signed agreement to pay for the study, the report shows. Taxpayers ended up bearing the cost instead.

The NFL’s actions violated policies that prohibit private donors from interfering in the NIH peer-review process, the report concludes, and were part of a “long-standing pattern of attempts” by the league to shape concussion research for its own purposes.

I’m sure those purposes were humanitarian.  Totally.

The NFL strenuously objects, of course.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on Monday said: “The NFL rejects the allegations laid out … There is no dispute that there were concerns raised about both the nature of the study in question and possible conflicts of interest. These concerns were raised for review and consideration through the appropriate channels. … It is deeply disappointing the authors of the Staff Report would make allegations directed at doctors affiliated with the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee without ever speaking to them.”

But I notice it’s not stepping up to relieve the taxpayers of that $16 million dollar bill we’ve been presented with.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said on SportsCenter on Monday that the union decided, years ago, to split from the NFL on such matters because of the league’s conflicted history around brain research. He said the league has no commitment to the health and safety of its players.

“It’s one of the most troubling and disturbing reports I’ve seen,” Smith said of the Outside the Lines story Monday, adding he wasn’t surprised, however. “It reaffirms the fact that the league has its own view about how they care about players in the NFL.”

Pallone said he hopes the report will push the league to make changes.

“The history with the league is, if you catch them, then they start to listen,” Pallone said.

And you wonder why the people in charge keep getting sued for crap like this.

“Lots of history here. But our process was not tainted and all above board. … Trouble is of course that the [Stern] group is led by people who first broke the science open, and NFL owners and leadership think of them as the creators of the problem.”

Well, actually, you don’t.

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Life may not be fair, but it’s complicated.

Chip Towers catches up with the former Georgia player who’s one of the plaintiffs in the new wave of concussion-related lawsuits filed earlier this week, and it’s just so sad.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday, Hermann said he suffers from severe memory loss. He said he has been undergoing medical treatment and getting tests from neurologists and his family doctor to try to determine if the symptoms that he suffers are the result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE).

However, Hermann did not want to talk about the specifics of his case due to the pending litigation.

“This thing has taken on a life of its own,” he said before going off the record. “I’m a very private person. … I’ve had reporters calling me all week and I’m like, ‘this is not what I was signed up for.’”

Hermann would say only that his cognitive skills have been deteriorating rapidly over the last several years and blames it on 18 years of playing football, and those three years in Athens in particular.

In the suit itself, Hermann claims that he suffered “numerous concussions” while practicing and playing special teams for Georgia in from 1984-86 and has suffered memory loss as a result. The suit specifically references a hit Hermann took on a kickoff in which he “saw stars.”

Georgia is not named specifically in the suit. It targets the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference.

“I love UGA,” Hermann said. “This isn’t about them.”

Dignity, a love of the program… and the realization that something stemming from his playing days is wrong and getting worse.  I’m not sure how I would handle all of that were I in his shoes.  Wishing him the best seems inadequate, but it’s all I have to offer.

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The hits just keep on coming.

Thought this was interesting, in part because of one of the specific plaintiffs:

Former college football players at Penn State, Auburn, Georgia, Oregon, Utah and Vanderbilt are suing the NCAA, their former conference and — in some instances — their former school over how their concussions were treated.

Six class-action lawsuits filed Tuesday represent the start of the next wave of concussion litigation in college sports, even as the NCAA finalizes a $75 million settlement from a different lawsuit related to concussions. Chicago attorney Jay Edelson, who is leading this latest effort to sue the NCAA, said 40 to 50 class-action lawsuits will eventually get filed on behalf of tens of thousands of ex-football players.

If it isn’t clear, Georgia isn’t being sued here, but it is being targeted by one former player.

* Georgia — Ronald Hermann (walk-on defensive end, 1984-86) is suing the NCAA and SEC in the Northern District of California. The suit claims Hermann suffered “numerous concussions” and it briefly described an incident in which he “saw stars” after a hit on a kickoff. Today, Hermann’s loss of memory “is particularly challenging, and he has sought out medical treatment in an effort to find answers that Defendants failed to provide,” according to the suit.

There is a downside to being cannon fodder for several years.  I’ll be curious to see the specific allegations and what, if any, news about the program in the latter stages of Dooley’s coaching career emerges from this.

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Alabama got a commitment from Sam Pittman’s wet dream.

It’s not just that offensive guard Evan Neal is six foot six and weighs 350+ pounds, or that, in the words of his high school coach, “(h)e’s got a tremendous first step, he’s as aggressive as any kid I’ve ever coached as a senior”.

It’s that he’ll be part of Alabama’s 2019 class, because he just turned fifteen.  Holy smokes.  I’m not sure describing him as massive does him justice.

(h/t)

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