D'Brickashaw Ferguson has seen the Will Smith film Concussion, and he is not happy.
Brick, after seeing the film and reading the book upon which the film was based, wrote an article for Sports Illustrated which you can read in its entirety here.
Some of the highlights of the article:
As the movie goes on and a growing a number of players are found to have had CTE, ... the shortcomings of the league’s attempt to address the problem become more evident. ... One third of its players, the NFL believes, will be affected by some degree of brain injury once they reach retirement. One third.
Perhaps I was a little naïve in my understanding of how the brain is affected by hits to the head. As I understood it, concussions dealt with big collisions, typically occurring at the skill positions, such as a wide receiver or defensive back trying to making a catch and receiving a hit, ... or a running back meeting a linebacker in the hole and colliding, sending both players to the ground dazed ... As I’ve come to find out, it isn’t just the large collisions that can be problematic, but rather the smaller collisions that don’t even amount to concussions but happen far more frequently, that are the real catalysts leading to CTE.
After learning all of this, I feel a bit betrayed by the people or committees put in place by the league who did not have my best interests at heart.
Dr. Elliot Pellman was one of the Jets’ team doctors when I was a rookie in 2006, and to learn that he was a part of the group that tried to discredit the scope and impact of brain injuries among players within the league is disheartening.
Though I cannot remember ever having a concussion, I now know as an offensive lineman that it is the frequency of collisions that can ultimately lead to brain injury. It’s a different conversation when you are involved in the story and not just watching a movie about it. I fear the unavoidable truth is that playing football has placed me in harm’s way, and I am not yet sure of the full extent of what it might cost me.
Ferguson is not likely the only NFL player wondering what he has unknowingly sacrificed at the NFL's altar. He concludes the article wondering if, knowing what he knows now, he would allow his children to go down the same path he has followed. No doubt many other football payers at every level, as well as parents everywhere, are wondering the same thing.
The NFL has a brain damage problem that might not be solvable as long as the game remains in a form where collisions are an inherent and unavoidable aspect of every play. How long will it be before there is a critical mass of parents who refuse to allow their children to participate in the game, cutting off the talent spigot that fuels the NFL's growth? How long will it be before a critical mass of fans start feeling too uncomfortable to watch games where brain damage is happening on every play?
The NFL has a brain damage problem. Today the league has never been healthier or more profitable. But today will not last forever. The health of the players who are the lifeblood of the league is being systematically compromised. The extent of the long term brain issues are just now being realized and brought to the attention of the players and the public. This is an issue that could ultimately undermine the good will of both the players and the viewing public. How this is dealt with, and whether it can ever be adequately dealt with, may well determine if the league has a long term future.