We’re now just a week away from the release of the movie Concussion, based on Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery of the disease CTE. The movie has stirred up plenty of controversy from its pre-screenings and promises to be one of the more talked about films of the year.
With that in mind, how many former NFL players will go to see it?
“I’m debating it, I’m like do I really want to see that, that’s my dilemma,” said London Fletcher CBS Sports Network That Other Pre-game Show analyst on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones show. “Because hell I played for 16 years, and like man, will it start to put some thoughts in my head that aren’t already there? More than likely I’ll end up going to see it.”
For former players like Fletcher, concussions can be a touchy subject, so how does he deal with the new information that comes out? Does he choose to ignore it? Or would he rather know as much as possible?
“You try and get as many facts as you can,” said Fletcher. “When Junior Seau passed, when he committed suicide, that really resonated with me more than say a Mike Webster or some of the other guys like a Dave Duerson who had committed suicide in the past because I hadn’t played with those guys. I knew about them and respected their careers, but with Seau I played against him. Anybody who’s ever met Junior you’re like “Man this guy, his personality, he seemed like the happiest guy on Earth. Then for him to committ suicide and it comes out he had CTE, you really have to take a step back and say “Wow what’s really going on?” So I did start to do more research and take concussions more serious after Junior’s death.”
The question that’s been asked of many players is how they feel about football knowing this information. Do they struggle a bit with the consequences of playing a game that they love?
“I’ll tell you this, I have a seven year-old son and he’ll play football, he plays flag now,” said Fletcher. “And he absolutely loves football. He’s ridiculous how much he loves it. He probably won’t play tackle until middle school, but that’s just kind of how I feel about it. I’m not going to not allow him to play football. I love the game, the fact that I played and understand the nature and the seriousness of concussions, I’ll be making sure if he does suffer one he’s getting the proper rest before he goes back on. I think you just have to put more measures in place to protect the kids playing football.”
Even at the professional level, the measures put in place to attempt to help make the game safer have come under scrutiny. We’ve seen players like Ben Roethlisberger take themselves out of the game because they thought they sustained a concussion, but have also seen Case Keenum left in the game despite looking clearly concussed. Is the league’s current policy enough?
“I think they need to go further. Obviously there’s always more information that can be done and continued research and better technologies,” said Fletcher. “I’m sure that helmet companies are trying to do things to make their product a lot safer because I mean, the game of football is a great game. We played it Brian (Jones) and we loved it. It’s an awesome game. As you mentioned when we came into the league, it was a badge of honor if you played after you got your bell rung. You’d line back up and play the next snap. There was no going to the sidelines, you had to be knocked out cold and still you were expected to play the next week or even get back in the game. Times have changed. I feel like they can continue to do more, I’m sure they are looking at all of that, but really it’s going to come down to continued research.”