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A perspective on concussions with help from Colin Cowherd
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Steve Young, just 2 years old, already dreaming of bigger and better things to come. The odds of playing in the NFL are so small that, after high school, unless a child is very focused and intent, there are many other fine goals to shoot for instead. - photo by Sherry Young
I get a lot of questions on how I feel about the concussion issue in football, about letting kids play sports and whether I worry about my family. I wrote an article back in 2013 on the subject. Sometimes I send the link to people rather than try to explain.

Believe me, when all the discussion about concussions in football reached a high point, we were worried. Grit played football. All our boys played football. We have grandsons who want to play football.

When I would try to express my feelings, there were a few times I could tell my listeners thought me a Pollyanna someone who will be optimistic no matter what happens and who rationalizes away good judgment.

But on March 23, a serendipitous thing happened. Grit and I climbed into his truck, heading out to do errands. He usually tunes into a daily sports commentary show called The Herd with Colin Cowherd. That day, the host started talking about concussions.

Cowherd concedes that the NFL is a violent sport and that concussions are a reality. But in his opinion, the issue has been blown out of proportion by the media.

He offered the following thoughts:

  1. "Yes, the chance for Alzheimer's is greater, but it's still only 0.17 percent."
  2. "The average NFL player lives longer than you and I do ... three and four years."
  3. Cancer is lower among NFL players.
  4. Heart problems are lower among NFL players.
  5. Concussions are down 25 percent.
One point I particularly liked was when Cowherd said, When I listen to the media, it is fear-mongering. ... It's extreme. He pointed out that with the number of people who play football at a high level, if everyone developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the numbers would be "astronomical." But they are not.

All this made sense to me. Common sense.

"The prevalence of dementia in the regular population is high, even for young people. But a large number of former football players would have dementia they would, whether they played football or not at 65."

"Nobody denies it's violent," he said. "There's concussions, but if you read this narrative, youd think every player has it.

He mentioned a study that was done on concussions in the NFL. "They did a study seeking people who thought they had CTE; 55 of 58 had it. They were seeking people who thought they had it. ... If you seek certain people, they will show up for your study. It doesnt mean 55 of 58 NFL players have it. I just dont think the commentary matches the data.

He finished his assessment with comments about the many NFL players he knows who are about 40 or 50 years old who shed weight the minute they leave the league. They drop 30 pounds, get healthy, a lot become vegans, eat better and are in much better shape than the rest of us.

Playing sports is a positive activity, and those who participate often have higher self-esteem and confidence. Certainly, the exercise is beneficial.

Sure, there are risks, but there are risks sending our kids out the door every day. Things happen.

It's true that the publicity of this issue has created more awareness of concussions and the dangers of returning to a game after experiencing one. A good coach should know this, just as he should look for signs of heat exhaustion and encourage his players to speak up when not feeling well.

But let's not forget the positives that come from competition: keeping our kids busy, away from drugs and mischief, making friends, doing something they enjoy and having the chance to fulfill their dreams.