All young football players need to hear the story of Merril Hoge. Hoge played fullback for the Pittsburgh Steelers for seven seasons before signed with the Chicago Bears in 1994. That year would be the last of his playing career.
After suffering a second concussion in five weeks, Hoge died. His heart stopped and teams doctors had to recessiate him.The next two years of Hoge's life were very challenging. He had to basically start over from a mental standpoint. He spent the next two years trying to regain his cognative abilities.
Recently, another Steeler took some heat from his teammate for not playing the week after a concussion. Ben Roethlisberger sat out against the Ravens after suffering a concussion the week prior. His teammate, Hines Ward, ruffled some feathers when he made some uneducated comments about concussions, their effects, and his own personal history with them.
His words showed the world that the NFL needs to change. This tough guy culture cannot continue. The NFL needs to immediately take steps to protect its present and future players against concussions.
My senior year of high school, 2002, our entire football team had to take baseline concussion tests on the computer. This program tested memory and reaction times. The thought was that if one sustained a head injury, the player must retake the test and perform to a comparable level to the baseline before being allowed to return to action.
Fast forward seven years. How on earth is this not being done everywhere? The NFL (and college football for that matter) needs to make all players take several of these baseline tests before beginning contact work. Each week, players would then retake the test. If they weren't within a set range of the baseline tests, then they would have to retake the test. Again, if the average of the tests was a range below the baseline, the player would be forced to sit out for a minimum of seven days after he successfully tested again.
This is how players lies and doctors opinions could be taken out of the equation. Players and team doctors opinions cannot be trusted due to conflict of interest. So let's just eliminate them altogether. Let's quantify it.
On top of testing, NFL players should be required to wear the best concussion reducing helmets and mouth guards. Once it became mandatory, the trickle down effect would happen in college and high school football.
If something doesn't happen soon, I fear football my become obsolete. The ball is in the NFL's field. They have the power to change the culture, but the question is will they?