(WSCR) While more neurological research is still needed, it’s clear the long-term effects of concussions can have serious ramifications.
But when asked during his weekly press conference if the the NFL needs to change the way the game is played to protect its players, Bears head coach Lovie Smith denied the existence of evidence proving the negative, long-lasting side effects of concussions.
“I mean, once you get more evidence that things have really happened and guys were really affected by this, and we’re not there,” Smith said. And I’m definitely not there as a coach in charge of his football team right now, we treat it the same way.”
LISTEN: Hunter Hillenmeyer on The Boers and Bernstein Show
Former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, who had his career shortened by a series of concussions, joined The Boers and Bernstein Show to discuss Smith’s comments.
“I’m pretty sure Lovie is aware,” Hillenmeyer said. “I know he’s aware. When I went on Injured Reserve in 2010, he sat me down in his office and expressed to me that it was the long-term ramifications of someone who has had multiple concussions that he was worried about. He said, ‘I wouldn’t feel right about putting someone with your history of concussions back out there on the field.’ I don’t want to put words in his mouth or make assumptions of what he said there. There might be a little bit of a disconnect because Lovie’s not a doctor. He’s not a trainer. He’s not a researcher. … His job is to win football games. So, he has to probably waffle a little bit when he he’s asked such a pointed question like that. Maybe that was a poor choice of words, but I doubt he was trying to imply that there is no evidence of long-term issues that can be caused by concussions.”
Hillenmeyer even said that he’s heard from several Bears players who were afraid to report possible concussions.
“I had multiple guys on the Bears team last year call me and say, ‘I took a big hit in the game. I felt a little funny the next day. I’m pretty sure we’re not going to hit in practice this week. Do you think I’m going to be OK by the time the game comes around?’ As their friend who has spent a lot of time trying to understand concussions and their long-term implications and everything else, I’m thinking, ‘Of course you need to tell somebody.’ But as somebody who’s a pragmatist and a realist and knows that if this person has a contract coming up in the next year or two and all of the sudden their labeled ‘concussion prone’, there are just so many things that come into play. To put the burden on the player to self-report, even if that’s what really has to happen, it’s just not realistic as a tool to improving the number of concussions that actually are diagnosed or reported.”