To report or not to report. For NFL players when it comes to concussion symptoms, that is the question.
It’s a hot topic in the NFL yet again with the comments from Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, on television indicating that Brady has suffered concussions in his career, including one last year. The Patriots, the NFL and Brady’s agent Don Yee have all announced that Brady either had not reported any symptoms or been diagnosed with a concussion — but that isn’t the same as saying he didn’t have one, either.
The logical inference based on the information is that either Bundchen is mistaken or that Brady hid concussion symptoms he was experiencing from the team. If the latter is in fact the case, he wouldn’t be the only player to ever do that.
Heck, Drew Brees said as much last week when he told “The Dan Patrick Show” that he wouldn’t say anything to his wife if he got his “bell rung” because he wouldn’t want her to worry. And if he wouldn’t tell her, he obviously wouldn’t tell the team, because she would ultimately find out. In fact, he’s said as much previously.
“Honestly I don’t think I would. I would not self-report,” Brees told Peter King when asked that very question on King’s MMQB podcast last fall.
As a former player, I’m a little surprised to hear Brees say that because, in my mind, my willingness to report or not would be based on the situation and circumstances. It’s a scenario that I think about often.
Let’s say it was my third or fourth year in the NFL and I was experiencing some minor concussion symptoms during or after the third preseason game and I was battling for a roster spot. Would I say something and risk the team using that against me when making the final roster decisions?
Knowing what I know now about concussions, CTE and brain trauma, I’d like to think I would, but I can’t say definitively. Having a family with two daughters now 10 years after my final season playing in the NFL certainly gives me a different perspective and makes me much more likely to believe I would speak up in that situation, but it’s hard to know what I would do if I were still in the heat of that moment, with all my hard work throughout my life and my dream potentially hanging in the balance with such a decision.
I’d be lying if I said I’d know for sure what I would do.
That’s why it is hard for me to condemn Brees or Brady or anybody else if that is what they are choosing to do. Certainly, if I were having a successful as Brees’, I would say something if I suffered a concussion, right?
Again, I’d absolutely like to think in that situation the answer would be yes, but the truth is, how do you really know what you would do unless you were actually in those shoes?
Brees is a 6-foot quarterback who overcame a devastating injury to his throwing shoulder to have a Hall of Fame career and bring a Super Bowl to New Orleans. Brady was a former sixth-round pick who is in the midst of the greatest career any quarterback has had in NFL history. Their mindset, their sheer force of will, is arguably the greatest trait that has propelled them to this point in the late stages of their careers. It’s got to be difficult to just turn that off.
Then again, some prominent NFL players continue to make that decision. Ben Roethlisberger explained to King, again on his podcast, why he told the Steelers medical staff about some symptoms he was having late in a loss to Seattle back in 2015.
“Probably everybody who has ever played the game of football hasn’t reported an injury,” Roethlisberger told King. “For me it wasn’t about an injury — I’ve played through many injuries — but when you talk about your head, that is a different ball game. You can replace a lot of body parts, but you can’t replace a brain. You see the effects of it from past players, players who have taken their lives, the CTE, all that stuff and, you know, I’m thinking about my family and long term. I love this game and I love my brothers that I play football with, and I would encourage any player who has an issue with their brain to just report it properly … We are blessed to play this game but we also have a life to live. “
Certainly, Roethlisberger appears to have a great perspective on things, but does that mean that guys like Brady and Brees don’t?
It’s not an easy question to answer and it’s also not one that will be going away any time soon.