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Newsflash: Concussions happen in football

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Writer

The NFL is under a lawsuit from former players who argue that the league should have done more to prevent and diagnose concussions; they’re hoping for a fat payday and egregious changes to the Rules of the Game.
Brain injuries are no joke, and all anyone has to do is watch a postgame interview with an NFL star to recognize that these guys don’t have a lot of brain cells to lose. Most are probably one Ray Lewis-style helmet-to-helmet tackle away from losing all abilities of speech and facial recognition.
The NFL is even going as far as airing a spot during the Super Bowl, in between amusing Chevrolet and patriotic Budweiser commercials, highlighting all of the recent safety changes that have been implemented, even though the only people who care don’t watch football.
They’ll be tuned into Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl on Sunday afternoon and then call it an early night.
Football is the tough, physical game that it is, and we, the people who love it, love it for just that reason. Injury is the price of admission for players, and they’re at risk from basically the pee-wee leagues on up.
Mothers freak out about that risk (mine did, for sure) but young men brush those concerns aside because the chance for glory and unabashedly hitting people far outweigh those risks, in their minds.
The Sports Illustrated piece that expanded on the claims of former NFL players involved in the lawsuit details, from the 1960s to today, a culture where being injured is shameful, and minor injuries, like broken bones, are treated with an icepack, a handful of painkillers and a trip back out onto the gridiron. An athlete who refuses to go back onto the field because of an injury is scorned by his teammates, and will likely be sending out resumes soon after.
There’s too much at stake to let a little scratch like a slipped disk or broken collar bone put the game on the line. We’re talking about the most finely tuned athletic machines in the world; they’re designed to play through the pain.
Pretty soon, with the way things are going, Roger Goodell will be sweating under the hot lights of another Senate subcommittee. It’s been just under three years since the commissioner was summoned to Washington, and he’s due.
The last thing anyone wants is another government Inquisition into professional football. With the election coming, this would be the perfect time for a long-shot candidate (I’m looking at you, Santorum) to move his sights onto the NFL. He would be hailed by every European media outlet, and may have a future in Parliament.
The bottom line is that it’s a good thing the NFL is talking about these issues, but I doubt that a lawsuit is the right way to go. In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, that’s not always the best way to get things done around here.
Michael Gebelein is a sports writer with the Lincoln Times-News.

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