Bengals' Joe Burrow Says Concussions Are Part of NFL, Has Lost Memory of Some Games

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVOctober 5, 2022

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Paycor Stadium on September 29, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The threat of head injuries is one of the costs of playing football in the eyes of Cincinnati Bengals star Joe Burrow.

"You're going to have head injuries," he said on The Colin Cowherd Podcast (via Ben Baby of ESPN). "You're going to tear your ACL. You're going to break your arm. That's the game that we play. That's the life that we live. And we get paid handsomely for it. I think going into every game, we know what we're getting ourselves into."

Burrow discussed his own history of head injuries.

"I've had some where I don't remember the second half or I don't remember the entire game or I know I got a little dizzy at one point," he said, adding he hasn't suffered any long-term consequences.

Thanks to the 2013 PBS documentary League of Denial and continued research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the dangers presented by repeated head trauma became impossible to ignore.

Nearly a decade later, though, it seems fair to wonder how much has changed.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa appeared to be experiencing concussion-like symptoms in a Week 3 win over the Buffalo Bills but returned in the game. Head coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa was dealing with back and ankle issues. Days later, the third-year signal-caller was stretchered off and placed into an ambulance during Miami's Week 4 loss to the Bengals with a concussion.

The situation remains under investigation by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, and the NFLPA moved to fire the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who cleared Tagovailoa to play against the Bills.

Changes to the NFL's concussion protocol have already been made.

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

NFL and NFLPA are now working to modify concussion protocols and they anticipate changes “in the coming days.” They released this statement tonight: <a href="https://t.co/siaE7Xh7dA">pic.twitter.com/siaE7Xh7dA</a>

To some extent, Burrow's comments underscore the futility of trying to stem the tide on concussions.

They're an inevitability in a sport as physical as football. No amount of equipment innovation or rule changes can root out concussions completely.

You also have the players themselves, who have been conditioned to play through injuries if at all possible.

"Guys get concussions, they don’t tell the coaches," Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson told the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett in May 2017. "It happens. I don’t tell the coach sometimes cause I know I got a job to do. The team needs me out there on the field. And sometimes you allow that to jeopardize yourself, but that’s just the nature of the world."

Former tight end Rob Gronkowski went so far as to say in 2015 he'd rather suffer a concussion than a major knee injury.

"If we're sitting here and I had choose would I want a concussion right now or my knee blown out, I'm going to say a concussion," he told Jim Rome (via Kevin Duffy of MassLive.com). "Why would I want to sit there for eight months and not do anything, when with a concussion I'll just wake up and I'll be ready to go again?"

As Gronkowski said, a concussion can have a shorter recovery time right away, but the true cost may not become clear until much later.