Concussion talk no longer taboo in the NFL

Young NFL retirement an 'epidemic': Jack Brewer
Young NFL retirement an 'epidemic': Jack Brewer   

The San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland is the most well-known NFL player to retire in his prime due to concerns about concussions.

Football and head injuries are a necessary evil. The game is safer now because players understand what it means to have a concussion. When I played, we were told that you only had a concussion when you were completely knocked out. That was just seven years ago.

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Talking about concussions used to be taboo in the locker room and players would laugh and high five when another player was knocked out or woozy from a big hit. Now, players get concerned when this happens. The concussion debate and NFL settlement lawsuit has changed the culture of the NFL when it comes to brain injuries.

"By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players," Jeff Miller, the NFL's senior vice president of health and safety policy, said in a statement after Borland's announcement.

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However, there are still problems we have to face. It is estimated that 30 percent of all football players will suffer from CTE, Alzheimer's or Dementia due to the head trauma associated with football. This is a bone-chilling statistic. We have seen a double-digit decline in youth-contact football participation over the last couple of years. The big question now is how to treat and manage the former players who were not aware of the science surrounding concussions and how to move forward with the game of football now that current and future players are aware.

We have recently seen a series of players donate their brains to concussion research, including recently retired Super Bowl Champion wide receiver, Sidney Rice and current New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford. Over time, we will continue to see more players donating their brains to science, which should lead to revolutionary advancements in understanding brain disorders. We have never had such a young population on which to study effects on the brain.

There are some interesting public companies making progress in the concussion diagnosis space that I've been following. Chembio has developed a sideline blood test that will take 15 minutes to diagnose brain injury symptoms. Boston University and Amarantus BioScience are working on diagnostics for early detection of brain disorders. Helius Medical has a device that is placed under your tongue to detect severe head trauma.

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Companies like these have made more advances in the last 10 years than we have in the history of the human race. Progress is being made at a rapid pace, but we still have a long road ahead of us. It is still yet to be seen what economic impact concussions will ultimately have on the NFL.

Commentary by Jack Brewer, a former NFL safety who played for the Vikings, Giants, Eagles and Cardinals. He is also the founder and CEO of the Brewer Group. He has a master's degree in sports management from the University of Minnesota. He serves as an ambassador for peace and sport for the United States Federation of Middle East Peace at the United Nations. Follow him on Twitter@JackBrewerBSI.