American football fans are mostly but not entirely male, mostly but not entirely middle-aged, and mostly, but not entirely all, in posession of a mentality that the player somehow owes him. It is a pervasive attitude one can find throughout the cul-de-sacs and sprawl of the country, and it is common as Bud Light and Doritos.
Antonio Brown, bizarrely, walked off the field in a half Slap Shot tribute, stripping down to his pants and waving goodbye. It was a scene unlike any that have come before in professional sports. And if it is Antonio’s professional retirement ceremony, it was a memorable one.
But before we use phrases like “Antonio quit” or “he quit on his football team” we first must delve into the health of Mr. Brown. See, these guys are not just well built robots designed to perform for our viewing pleasure. They are human beings, at least, almost all of them, still wondering if Tom Brady is some sort of cyborg, (that is a joke Brady buds!) In all seriousness, Mr. Brown did not wake up one day and just become a different person.
This is from a playoff game almost six years ago. It is as clear of an example of headhunting as you will ever see, and the victim was Antonio Brown. In fact, it largely cost the Bengals the game. As the video shows Antonio would lay nearly motionless on the field for some time, and was indeed diagnosed with a concussion. The hit is at about the 3:55 mark.
This video is interesting because it also discusses what I am bringing up here. Up until this point Antonio was fairly well a model teammate. Burfict could have killed him with that so called defensive play, and I don’t say that flippantly. After that Antonio over time began to develop a change in his personality. CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative condition that begins to take shape over time.
We know that the NFL recorded Antonio’s concussion. We know of this one instance. It is said that it takes repeated hits to the head for this to happen. The truth is there is much to still learn. The medical aspect is not my lane, I am not a doctor nor do I aspire to be one. But the part of this I do have knowledge about is my own experience playing the game.
I played high school sports, three of them in fact. My best sport was basketball but I also played baseball and some football. The football I was kind of roped into by my teacher/coach who needed more speed. I was fast. I was not invincible.
Late into the season I was running a drag route, or a short crossing pattern, and I cut at the angle the play called for, just after the cornerback shifted his weight. As I turned at about 90 degrees downfield to come underneath the safety the ball was thrown behind me, and when I turned to catch the ball I met the linebacker’s shoulder head on.
I was out. In fact, the only reason I can tell you what happened was the game film, as the last piece of that sequence I can remember was watching the ball come towards my hip, not my chest where it should have been.
I come to, and wobble to the sidelines. I was a good, not great reciever, because my hands were small, and my coach comes up to me and asks me to go back in. Actually, it seemed that there were two of him. He gave me the standard tough guy “don’t be a p----” “ya just got ya bell rung” stuff we kids were taught to rub dirt on, and away I went. For about ten feet. Then kablooey, everything I ate dating back to Halloween poured onto the field. I was done for the game.
The next week I felt ok, and he put me in at safety, and told me to “get revenge.” It wasn’t even the same team we were playing but he wanted me angry, and to make sure the “sonsabi---—“ did not get up. He wasn’t kidding. I was in a simple cover 2 package and read the QB’s eyes, jumped the post route and laid a hit on the kid I thought would turn him into goo. After about two minutes he wobbled up to his feet. I felt bad.
The coach grabbed my facemask on the sidelines and said “He got up. I told you to make sure he is out of the f----— game.”
That was that. Like Antonio, I took off my pads, then flipped him off and walked off of the field. I was never again going to play a game that by design is meant to hurt people. I did not like the feeling.
I did not know it at that time, but I may have preserved my brain.
As it turns out, getting “ya bell rung” is quite destructive. Each concussion has long term consequences. But I decided to never again play football for humanitarian reasons. It was a wise choice.
It was the only choice.
Let me show you something-
The symptoms of CTE vary between individuals, but tend to be similar to those of other types of degenerative brain conditions, particularly Alzheimer's disease.
CTE usually begins gradually several years after receiving repetitive blows to the head or repeated concussions.
The symptoms affect the functioning of the brain and eventually lead to dementia.
Typical symptoms of CTE include:
- short-term memory loss – such as asking the same question several times, or having difficulty remembering names or phone numbers
- changes in mood – such as frequent mood swings, depression, and feeling increasingly anxious, frustrated or agitated
- increasing confusion and disorientation – for example, getting lost, wandering or not knowing what time of day it is
- difficulty thinking – such as finding it hard to make decisions
The best evidence is that it takes more than one concussion to cause CTE. Ok fine. But we don’t know if it is like a set amount of instances or if it varies from person to person. It is doubtful we each get “10 spins on the wheel.” It likely varies right? But if Antonio only had one major concussion, what is the problem?
Earlier I said in Antonio’s history he had only one injury declared to be a concussion. The problem is players are likely being concussed daily, if even only slightly. An average football player at any level can expect to suffer tens of thousands of micro-concussions over their career.
The study authors define micro concussions as “impacts to the skull, including those that do not produce acute concussion but nevertheless result in clinical signs and symptoms.”
Across a college football season, a player might pick up well over 1,000 Trusted Source micro concussions. And, as research intensifies, scientists are growing increasingly concerned that they may have a significant cumulative effect.
To see what may be the effects of that, look at this study-
In 2017, JAMA published a major and disturbing finding. Researchers had collected the autopsied brains of 202 former football players who had donated their brains to science, or had them donated via their next of kin. The players included those who had played in the NFL, but also those who only played through college, and a few who had only played in high school.
Of the 202 brains, 177, or nearly 90 percent, were diagnosed with CTE. And there was a pattern: Those who had played football longer were more likely to have worse brain damage. Among the former NFL players in the sample, 99 percent had CTE. This suggests the effects of brain trauma on CTE are cumulative. The more trauma over a longer period, the worse the symptoms.
99 percent. Granted, this was not a random sampling, but one can reasonably extrapolate from this a horrifying number across the board. So what of Antonio Brown? I sifted through videos of him being called a quitter, a coward, all number of things. But what about victim? What if in the midst of this Antonio Brown decided to make his exit memorable for a reason? To make someone drop a Dorito, or spill some beer, in utter shock, just to make one of these couch potatoes with an opinion on everything, for once, ask, why?
Why would he do that? What was he thinking? What about his team? And maybe, just maybe, there will be other people like me not all that surprised, wondering how much shelf life the game of football has left when it can’t find any more volunteers to turn their brains into mush, when insurers walk away, when sponsors can’t take the heat.
Maybe there are a few others out there asking the only question that truly matters?
Not, “What is wrong with Antonio?”
“What can we do for Antonio?”
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