Tom Brady’s wife Gisele set off a bit of a storm inside NFL, NFLPA, and Patriots offices this week when she casually disclosed that Brady had suffered one, and perhaps many more, concussions in recent years. The news came as a surprise since Brady has never entered into the NFL’s concussion protocol, as he would be required to do had he actually suffered a concussion. The problem is that many concussions must be self-reported, and as Saints quarterback Drew Brees noted later this week, that’s one heck of a “gray area.”
“When you’re in the heat of the moment, heat of the battle and it’s competitive, you do not want to pull yourself out [of the game],” Brees said on the Dan Patrick Show Thursday. “That’s why the concussion protocols are in place where you’ve got the independent neurological consultants and the trainers and the referees. Everybody’s supposed to be looking.”
Even so, there are flaws inherent in the system. Brees allowed that he might avoid a Gisele situation by simply not telling his own wife that he had suffered a concussion: “I wouldn’t want her to worry.”
That’s certainly one approach, but it’s one the NFL and the players’ association are seeking to avoid, hence the investigation into Gisele’s words. Likely, that investigation won’t turn up anything of significance — Gisele isn’t a doctor, how could she diagnose a concussion, will likely be the prevailing theme — but the underlying point remains: if players can evade the NFL’s concussion protocol on “lighter” concussions, what good is the protocol in the first place?
Brees noted that vigilance on every front is the key, telling a story of his days with the Chargers when he suffered a concussion but refused to leave the game: “I knew that something was not right. I knew that I was concussed,” he said. “But I didn’t take myself out of the game. I mean, I stayed in the game and played as long as I could until finally a coach pulled me aside and was like, ‘I’m looking out for you here, and you’re not gonna play anymore.’ … And that’s why it’s hard to change that mentality for guys.”
As long as players are at risk of losing their job to more healthy teammates, they’ll conceal concussions and other woes. And as long as football exists, it’ll have the next-man-up mentality that leads to players fearing the loss of their job. That’s why there’s no easy solution to the concussion-reporting question … though that doesn’t mean the NFL and the players shouldn’t continue to work for solutions that have an eye on long-term health rather than short-term gains.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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