I must begin this communication by offering my condolences to the family of former NFL Linebacker Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau Jr. who ended his life recently.
It is a known fact that there have been many professional football players who sustained head injuries that did not appear (at least not on the surface) to be serious enough to be force them to take a seat on the sideline. Because of the “macho man” syndrome that many players back in the day operated under, if a player received a blow to the head, saw a few stars, heard a few bells, had a few “questionable visuals-things like double vision they were usually administered a few smelling salts; given a firm pat on the rear end and usually were immediately sent back onto the field of war. And these were the guys getting paid.
Many college athletes also had a few dings and stingers but were also in most cases instructed to return to the DMZ-demilitarized zone to continue the battle. These young athletes also received “compensation” supposedly disguised as an education and room and board. This “stipend” is inadequate for the services rendered but hey; this is life.
Another group of players that are at probably the highest risk but on the lowest end of the economic totem pole are the athletes that perform at the high school level. They possibly play the hardest, pray the hardest and hope the most but are compensated the least because as we all know this group of athletes are paid zilch, nada, goose egg.
The public may never know the complete circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Seau. However, one thing seems to be very clear. The delusional mental state of the former NFL All-Universe linebacker when he took his own life may forever be linked to the many blows to the head that he received during his career. Okay, where I am going to go next is probably going to get me into trouble but so be it. Mr. Seau benefitted from his salary of millions of to play for pay. Even if the NFL had the most incompetent “quacks” posing as doctors to diagnose or misdiagnose his injuries; he had had the financial ability to police his injuries by paying for top medical treatment available to him outside of the NFL medical infrastructure if he was dissatisfied with the analysis provided by the leagues physicians.
Now on the other hand aside from university varsity football programs that are connected with excellent schools of medicine such as the University of Pittsburgh, the medical diagnosis and care of injuries sustained by the student athletes on the college level may often times be described as borderline at best because of the competence of the sometimes underpaid and undermanned medical staffing units.
Talk about high school tragedies. Civil rights activist/preacher Jesse Jackson coined the phrase, “keep hope alive.” High school athletes will almost always lay it all on the line on the gridiron in order to “keep hope alive” and to be given passage to the next level.
“Concussions have always been a part of sports, but there’s an increasing recognition of their seriousness, especially for people whose brains haven’t yet fully developed. Every concussion is a brain injury,” says Dawn Comstock, an Ohio State University researcher who conducts an annual study of high school sports injuries. Comstock’s research shows that in the 2009-2010 school years, high school athletes suffered more than 187,000 concussions in just nine sports.
Although it may still be unethical, I can fully comprehend if the medical staffs of the NFL teams clear a player a bit prematurely in order to possibly win a playoff game. Hell, that player is getting megabucks to perform but that high school kid will get not one quarter for his or her services. That is crazy.
Now in addition to these high school players performing for free the medical insurance providers of America are forced to subsidize and provide medical coverage for these young adults. Who do you think that the costs are going to be passed off to? That is right boys’ and girls’, you and I because 187,000 head injuries are one heck of a lot of visits to the ER.
Every kid that plays peewee, midget, middle school, high school or college football has one and only one destination circled on their map of life, the NFL. They hear the roar of the frenzied crowd as they pick off an interception, throw the perfect spiral or dashes around the right end to score the game winning touchdown, but wait. When the game ending whistle blows what sounds do they hear then? Do they hear the light and airy voices of victory or do dark demonic voices visit them in strange and unrecognizable places; dictating commands of mayhem calling out directions of destruction? What voices did Junior Seau hear?
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at; firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)