Pittsburgh Steelers: The Impact of Troy Polamalu's Concussion Revelation

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Pittsburgh Steelers: The Impact of Troy Polamalu's Concussion Revelation
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Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was pulled from two games last season after taking blows to the head.

On the surface, it doesn't seem like that big a deal that Troy Polamalu says he's lied about concussion symptoms to stay on the field.

He's hardly the only one.

In a poll of 44 players late last season, 23 said they would rather hide a concussion than take themselves out of a game, according to the Associated Press via USA Today.

Polamalu's disclosure Wednesday on the Dan Patrick Show, via Pro Football Talk, is far from the biggest news during this offseason in which the word "concussion" is as prominent as "lockout" a year ago.

The 31-year-old safety said he's had eight or nine "recorded" concussions in his career.

While we never truly know professional athletes, Polamalu projects an image as a devoted husband and father as well as a soft-spoken man of faith.

It's sad to think that those concussions put Polamalu at risk for depression and dementia later in life.

The good news is Polamalu has a chance to steer clear of that tragic road.

The bad news, and it's really not bad news in the grand scheme of things, is that the end of Polamalu's career might be closer than we think.

When Polamalu spares himself further damage by hanging up his spikes sooner rather than later, it will increase his odds of enjoying a long, healthy life after football.

Polamalu told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during organized team activities in May that he thinks about the end of his career "all the time."

Research published in the New York Times says that once a person suffers a concussion, that person is four times more likely to suffer a second one.

With all the concussions Polamalu has had, it would require an advanced mathematics degree to calculate his chances of getting another one. 

We've seen how delicate Polamalu's head has become. Twice last season, he was pulled from games after taking blows to the head. He was cleared to play the following week in both cases not because he lied about his symptoms, but because he passed tests.

In a bit of comic relief amid the NFL's concussion crisis, Polamalu was fined $10,000 for using a cell phone to tell his wife he was OK after being taken out of a game in October. Not even the squeaky-clean Polamalu is immune from the long arm of Roger Goodell.

Polamalu said during Wednesday's interview the part of the reason he lied about concussions was to be there for his teammates. That $10,000 phone call shows he's starting to think more about being there for his family.

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The Steelers' vigilance last season proves the gig is up and Polamalu no longer can lie about concussions.

The more hits to the head Polamalu takes, the more he's going to be yanked from games. It wouldn't be surprising if the Steelers have to take him out of not just two games but maybe four or five games a year.

If that happens, it becomes harder and harder to envision Polamalu playing out the three years remaining on his contract.

Now, when Steelers fans see the exhaust of flowing locks on Polamalu's interception returns and his vaults over the line of scrimmage to drop ball carriers for losses, they should cherish it because it could be the last time they ever see it.

Considering Polamalu's priorities at this point in his life, one more concussion might be enough to end his career.

The Steelers don't win the AFC North and go to Super Bowl XLV in 2010 without Polamalu's strip sack of Joe Flacco. They don't win the 2008 AFC Championship Game without Polamalu's pick-six.

In a couple of years, the Steelers might have to figure out how to get to the Super Bowl without Polamalu pulling such rabbits out of his hat, or his hair. They have to start pondering life after Polamalu.

More importantly, Polamalu has to think about life after football.

 

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