NFL players put their bodies in jeopardy every game, willing to make the immense physical sacrifice it takes to play football at the highest level.
Sometimes the competitive fire can prevail over what's good for an individual's long-term health, though, a notion players confirmed on Monday.
According to a report by ESPN.com's John Keim, 85 percent of NFL players in an anonymous 320-player survey said they'd play through a concussion if their team made it to the Super Bowl.
In last year's Super Bowl, safety Bernard Pollard broke six ribs on the first play but didn't leave the game in the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers.
Pollard, who now plays for the Tennessee Titans, shared his thoughts on the matter:
We are competitors. We want to go out there and entertain. That's all we are. We're entertainers. Guys want to go out there. They don't want to let themselves down. They don't want to let their teammates down. They want to go out there and play, not thinking about, "OK, what can this affect later on down the line?"
The impact of traumatic brain injuries is being evaluated and researched at an unprecedented rate in the league's attempt to emphasize player safety.
Autopsies of more than 50 ex-NFL players have revealed signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Nine living former players have also received the same diagnosis, per ESPN.com's William Weinbaum and Steve Delsohn.
New Orleans Saints tackle Zach Strief takes a bit more of a conservative stance when it comes to head injuries and the Super Bowl, per Keim:
I wouldn't come back into a game dizzy or nauseous. You're not going to help your team any if you come back in all messed up. The old "you got your bell rung" mentality has to change. I would never do something I felt was risking something that would be permanent or affected me down the road.
Washington linebacker London Fletcher suggested the severity of the concussion would determine whether he'd suit up.
"If it's something where I'm having just a few symptoms and can hide it from the trainer, then yeah, I would do it," said Fletcher. "With some of them, you get in a game and you can't play."
Commissioner Roger Goodell has pushed player safety issues and recently expressed openness to utilizing medical marijuana to help alleviate concussion symptoms.
Another interesting revelation came to light on Monday, Jan. 27, courtesy of USA Today's Peter Barzilai and Erik Brady, who report that 293 polled players are most worried about knee injuries (46 percent) as opposed to concussions (24 percent).
It's so much trickier to evaluate injuries to the head. Based on the lack of knowledge available—especially upon immediate diagnosis via the league's concussion protocol—players can more easily stay in the game even if the head injury is rather severe. On the other hand, a torn ACL makes the player incapable of making the proper movements to remain on the gridiron.
U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody recently rejected the proposed $765 million settlement of a concussion lawsuit filed by former players toward the NFL. Brody feared the total would not be enough.
Strief probably has the best point: Until the warrior attitude changes and a paradigm shift occurs from the "you got your bell rung" philosophy, truly tangible progress will be difficult to achieve for all parties involved in relation to head injuries.
Hopefully no one in Super Bowl XLVIII, which will be contested between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos on Feb. 2, is attempting to mask a concussion to play in the big game.
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