The cause of football legend Junior Seau’s death was announced today as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)- a brain disease caused by numerous blows to the head.
The NFL should take heed. This is all for real now. Junior Seau was a dominant linebacker in the NFL and was as well known as any player in the game’s history. His popularity wasn’t based on the fact he played in the NFL for 20 years, which he did, but it was because of how he played the game. Junior played football with great intensity and fearlessness. Two points that are drilled into youth football athletes across the country.
What went wrong? A variety of things. Junior Seau played football with an amplified ‘warrior’ mentality and it is what hurt him most. It was the attitude that I’ll play when I’m seriously hurt because my team needs me that consequently destroyed his health. We will never know how many total concussions Junior Seau had (ex-teammate Gary Plummer once estimated that Seau had 1,500 concussions) and how many of those he properly healed from.
“I played on one leg for seven weeks, … Knowing I could have two legs next year, it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to.” ~Junior Seau.
A lesson we recently learned from Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffen III (RG3) further shows us what the ‘warrior’ mentality can do. After injuring his knee in the first quarter, RG3 and the Redskins coaching staff decided against pulling the ailing quarterback out of the game. Instead they put Griffin at risk for an even harsher injury. A football coach needs to imagine that every player is their child- would they leave their injured kid stay in a game and risk further injury? I certainly hope not.
Football will continue its evolution into a safer sport when the NFL takes a stricter stance against helmet to helmet hits. The NFL Players Association needs to sit down and shut up when it comes to illegal hit enforcement against its players (see the article on Ed Reed’s suspension reversal). No more slaps on the wrist- it’s suspension time. The current generation of youth football players often mimic what they see on TV. If a kid that idolizes Ed Reed watches him lead with the crown of his helmet on a big hit, guess what? He will hit the same way. The professionals, whether they like it or not, are extremely influential to the legions of youth football athletes.
Challenge to the Roger Goodell and the NFL:
Protect injured players in games with a rule.
Treat with head injuries with great urgency and require player to be sidelined.
We need the culture of football to evolve. The old school way of thinking needs to die out. This includes opinions from announcers, coaches, players and even fans that stress the ‘warrior’ mentality. It’s frankly stupid. What we don’t want in football is another instance of CTE, a disease where the mutation of brain cells leads to severe mood changes, depression and (in Junior Seau’s case) suicide.
A change at the highest level would influence the current generation of youth football athletes immensely and create a safer game for the next generation of players.
Post on twitter using Hashtag #CleanUpTheGame , and let us send a message to the NFL – no more illegal hits! As always, please contact below and give us your thoughts.