Varsity Letter

Don't count on the players to care about concussions

By Preston Williams
Thursday, December 10, 2009

It seems like every week another prominent NFL player misses a game with a concussion. Clinton Portis, Kurt Warner, Brian Westbrook, Ben Roethlisberger and DeSean Jackson, to name a few. A congressional committee had a hearing on concussions in the NFL, and the league announced last week strict new rules on managing concussions.

Is this dramatic change in the NFL culture likely to trickle down to lower levels of football?

"Just knowing that big players such as Kurt Warner himself, knowing the type of accolades he has gotten, to see him sit out, that kind of makes you think there's nothing wrong with it," H.D. Woodson senior quarterback Ricardo Young said. "Seeing them sit out a game with a concussion or any type of head trauma, I think that really sends a message to young kids."

Well, not yet. Not if an informal Varsity survey is any indication. Last week, we posed the following scenario to some of the area's top high school players:

Let's say your team is playing in a championship in three days. You're still feeling the effects of a big hit that you took in the previous game. You're experiencing headaches or blurred vision or general fogginess but remain functional. Do you report this to your parents or coach or school athletic trainer, knowing that, given your symptoms, they very well might make you sit out the championship? Or do you conceal this information, at least until after the game, risking further damage to your brain?

Most guys queried said they would play if they were physically capable, no matter that a sustained concussion could endanger their still-developing brain for a lifetime and that the waning of symptoms does not necessarily indicate a clean bill of health.

Wise High School senior defensive lineman Anthony McDaniel: "Depending on how big the game is, like if it was a state championship, I would have to take that risk."

Annandale junior receiver Melvin Robinson: "If you love the game like you say you do, then you might as well go out and play until it really affects you."

North Point junior linebacker Connor Crowell: "I want that ring. I worked hard for that ring. This might be the only chance that I get. So I'd just take the risk."

Atholton senior linebacker Matt Robinson: "Everything you've been working for your whole life is coming down to this one game, and even though you have this injury that might affect you for years to come, you wouldn't want to regret not playing, and your team lose, when you know you could have made a difference."

Probably not what most parents would like to hear.

Lake Braddock senior offensive lineman Khamrone Kolb also said he would not report the head injury unless he knew it was serious. This surprised teammate Thomas Stickford, a senior defensive back. Kolb has committed to Penn State, whereas Stickford's playing career very well could be over after this season. He figured the players with longer shelf lives would err on the side of caution.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company