Why NFL Players Should Never Hide a Concussion

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Why NFL Players Should Never Hide a Concussion
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Greg McElroy during his first start with the Jets.

Hiding a concussion is the worst thing an NFL player can do these days.

However, it unfortunately continues to occur in the locker room.

According to Jane McManus of ESPNNewYork.com:

The New York Jets' coaching staff didn't know Greg McElroy had been experiencing concussion symptoms this week.

"He came to my room and we talked about it," [Clyde] Gates told ESPNNewYork.com. "He was hurting real bad. I was like, 'Bro, I know, I've been down that road already. I'm just saying you can't try to tough it out cause your going to end up hurting yourself. You've got to let everybody know how you really feel.' "

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There's simply no explanation as to why a player can justify hiding a concussion.

Yes, there are plenty of guys who don't want to sit out because of their competitive nature. Anyone possessing that kind of tough mindset is so crucial to a team.

But a head injury goes above and beyond anything else, because the game is more mental than physical. Given the complexity of football, regardless of level, having a clear and focused mind is needed to make snap decisions and in-game adjustments.

So, just from a strategic perspective, a player refusing to talk about potentially having a concussion is a disadvantage for that particular team. Even worse, though, are the health risks and implications. 

In an article by Nadia Kounang of CNN.com back in September of 2012:

Just hours before the 2012 NFL season kicks off, a new study suggests that professional football players are three times more likely to have neurodegenerative diseases than the general population.

When researchers specifically looked at Alzheimer's disease and ALS -- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- that risk increased to four times greater than the rest of us.

Studies have linked repeated concussions in football players to chronic traumatic encephelopathy, a neurodegenerative disease with Alzheimer's-like symptoms. Those symptoms can include depression, memory loss and mood swings.

This is the main reason why players, if they feel pain in their head, must reveal everything to team doctors and trainers

For anybody that has competed in football at any level, the risks taken to participate are known. At the same time, it is the player's responsibility to talk to coaches, trainers and doctors if they don't feel 100 percent.

The one difficult thing about playing in the NFL; however, comes in the form of business. And since pro football is a business, money is at the root. From an article by Akbar Gbajabiamila of NFL Network earlier in December, Gbajabiamila discusses his first concussion:

I was fighting for a job and knew I couldn't afford to be knocked out. So I willed myself back to my feet.

When I went back in, I had difficulty understanding the defensive play calls, as if I was hearing them for the first time. I knew something wasn't right, but I kept going, hanging on to the following locker-room commandments: Get your mind right and Play the game with no regard to your personal safety.

Given that the NFL is a business, a player's living is made on the field. As for McElroy, it's quite reasonable to comprehend his desire to withhold his health information.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Reverting back to the article by Jane McManus of ESPNNewYork:

[Rex] Ryan said McElroy should have been honest with the trainers about his condition, but seemed to understand that McElroy didn't want to give up a starting opportunity in a league where they don't come easily. [Clyde] Gates said that was probably a consideration for McElroy.

He first came in relief of Mark Sanchez and led the Jets to victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13.

Thereafter, McElroy received his first professional start against the San Diego Chargers in Week 16. And in spite of getting sacked 11 times, McElroy had Gang Green out front over the Bolts 14-10 at halftime.

Although the Jets weren't able to finish strong in the second half, it's obvious McElroy's competitive nature wanted another chance to get his first NFL win in 2012. Let's say that McElroy would have remained the starter for Week 17, he'd only be putting himself at greater risk of further damage.

Then again, that's the risk anyone with a competitive spirit is almost willing to take for the price of victory. Is it worth it, though?

No, because life off the gridiron is far too valuable, period.

Competing in football, or any other sport for that matter, is just a small part of an athlete's life. Undoubtedly, athletics are important and they can teach a person critical lessons.

One of those lessons; however, is also knowing when to speak up and willingly sacrifice the cost of winning for health: Because no injury is worth the long-term damage, especially concussions.

 

Follow John Rozum on Twitter.

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