With the biggest football game of the year just 10 days away, concussions remain a troubling health concern in the NFL. Retired players are still waiting for money from the league to pay for the health problems they deal with from concussions during their football careers. While a settlement is tied up in court, local retired players are supporting research to help today's athletes.
The NFL Alumni Indianapolis Chapter gave $35,000 from their fundraisers to the IU Health Neuroscience Center to support research on concussions. IU Health researchers want to find out not only what happened to former NFL players suffering from brain damage, but also what's happening now with young athletes who suffer concussions.
"What are the mechanisms of injury?" asked Dr. Nicholas Barbaro, medical director of the IU Health Neuroscience Center. "What are the ones that potentially result in lasting damage? I think we really need a lot more data than we actually have. There's a lot of talking about things as if we really understand this. We really don't."
The gift from the retired players will support the IU Health Neuroscience Center's concussion research and the center's "Brain & Beyond" youth education program.
The $765 million concussion lawsuit settlement between the NFL and former players announced August 29th was rejected last week by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Anita Brody's ruling says the preliminary settlement likely does not provide enough money for the medical expenses of an estimated 20 thousand players expected to qualify for benefits.
"There's a few of them waiting on it," said Bill Schultz, NFL Alumni Indianapolis chapter president. "They're saying this could take a couple more years. Some of these guys don't have that much time left. Their memory is gone. They're not in good shape."
Schultz played four seasons on the Colts offensive line (1990-93). Schultz suffers from memory loss he blames on concussions. He knows many former players dealing with more serious health problems.
"A lot of memory loss, confusion, ringing in the ears - a lot of guys can't sleep anymore," said Schultz. "There are a lot of different side effects of what happens with multiple concussions, over and over and over again."
The NFL now has a very strict concussion protocol to diagnose head injuries and prevent players from returning to action too soon.
In a related story, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would consider allowing players to use medical marijuana if doctors could show that it helps treat concussions. Goodell spoke with USA Today.
"I'm not a medical expert," said Goodell. "We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that. Our medical experts are not saying that right now."