As a senior playing football in high school I suffered what most certainly was a concussion. I took a knee to the side of my helmet in the second half and while I continued the remainder of the game I could never remember it afterwards.

To my knowledge that is the only time I took a blow to the head and had any lasting affects and in hindsight I was lucky. Two of my sons played football and one did “ding” his head in his very last game, but again had no lasting side affects that we know of. Even then, eight years ago, we did not know the long term consequences of sports related head injuries.

Last month Damon Janes dies while playing football for Westfield/Brocton High School. Reports were that Damon experienced a helmet to helmet collision during a game and never regained consciousness. Today that story has changed and to my knowledge Damon’s tragic death has not been fully explained. Regardless, his passing has again brought the issue of sports concussions to the front page.

I recently listened to Thurman Thomas being interviewed on WGR and talking about this very topic. Thurman acknowledged he has had head injuries and that his twelve year old son has suffered concussions playing football. This has become a very real issue in the Thomas residence.

Last year Thurman told me he had a scary experience driving to his office one morning. While in the car Thurman suddenly forgot where he was going and had to pull over and call his wife Patti. That experience scared the former Bill Hall of Fame running back to the point that he went for several MRI’s.

Jim Kelly is another former Bill who has suffered too many concussions to remember. Kelly has also told me he has experienced lasting affects from the blows to the head he took during his entire career.

We have seen Mark Kelso and Pat LaFontaine deal with serious concussion issues during their careers with the Bills and Sabres. Their experiences are widely known, but I’m sure there are dozens of former Buffalo pro athletes who quietly suffer from the effects of head injuries.

To me, even more serious than professional athletes suffering head injuries is the increase to children playing sports. We’re talking about 8, 9, 10 year old kids who seem to be experiencing head injuries at a much higher rate than we ever did at that age.

In football too many youth coaches are teaching youngsters to lead with their head and I see it at the high school level consistently. The NFL is stressing proper tackling technique for youth players, but you see the pros leading with their helmet every Sunday.

Bills President Russ Brandon discussed this with me and was forth coming in that he is concerned with his own children about this issue. Brandon feels with proper teaching and the right equipment being available to youth leagues the rash of head injuries would diminish, but that’s on paper. I am aware of youth football coaches in our area today who run the “bull in the ring” drill the very first day of practice. These are neanderthal individuals who don’t pay attention to any of rhetoric being discussed in main stream media and our kids are in their hands.

Of course there are many more youth coaches who do it right and protect the kids in their care. Yet, it just takes one ill informed coach to put a child in danger.

I believe the day will come when full contact football will go away. Whatever the hybrid would be I have no idea, but human beings are getting bigger and faster and when they collide the consequences are greater.

The eventual demise of the NFL will not come because of what we see on Sunday, but because of what happens on Friday and Saturdays.







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