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A Former CFL Player on Head Injuries

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: We go to Greg in Clinton Township, Michigan.  Hi, Greg.  Great to have you here.

CALLER:  Hi, Rush.  Thanks for taking my call.  Love your show, love your tea.  I'm calling today, Rush, regarding the NFL situation.  I did not play in the NFL.  I played in the CFL. So I'm not party to the suit, and even if I was an NFLer, I don't think I would be.  We all knew back when we were getting into football -- I'm 61 years old -- the dangers.  I've got the two replaced knees to attest to that.  But when all this started to happen, if you look at the guys that are having the problems now, they're in their fifties and sixties. John Mackey, Wally Hilgenberg, Cookie Gilchrist, these guys that have passed away.

RUSH:  Look at Jim Otto, the center for the Raiders.

CALLER:  Yeah. I know.

RUSH:  He could barely get out of bed. 

CALLER:  But the point is, first of all: Why did all this happen?  Why didn't you see this stuff earlier on?  Well, when the plastic helmet became in vogue in the sixties with the addition of the face mask, the head was a weapon in blocking and tackling, okay?  Now, we didn't know -- nobody knew -- back then what was gonna happen.  I take medication every day for headaches.  And as you rightly said, there's no way to diagnose chronic encephalopathy, which is what this is, until after you're deceased. So all that can be done is to be treated systematically, and that's fine.  If I was 18 tomorrow, knowing what I know today, I'd do it all over again.

RUSH:  You would?

CALLER:  Yeah! That's how much I love the game.  Of all the things that God gave me in the area of abilities, he gave me the ability to play football the best than anything I can do.  Don't get me wrong. I'm a professional and I enjoy my work, but --

RUSH:  Let me ask you. You've been on hold here for a long time, and I've got a short little break here.  Can you stay on hold here? 

CALLER:  Sure.

RUSH:  Good 'cause I --

CALLER:  Sure.

RUSH:  Greg here played in the CFL, Canadian Football League -- and let me tell you something: There was a time where the CFL was considered to be a much more brutal game than the NFL was.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

Back now to Greg.  I really appreciate your patience.  You said something really interesting that you glossed over because you thought you had very little time.  You said that there was a time in the history of this game, even the professional level, where these kinds of effects on the players long after they quit playing didn't happen -- and, you know, you may have a point, if you go back in professional football and even college football in the forties and fifties and obviously prior to that.

You could look, Greg, at film of professional football before the sixties, and college football. Tackling was entirely different.  It was an art.

CALLER:  Absolutely.

RUSH:  The head was not used, and all of these long-term effects were not really reported.  So it's an interesting point you're raising, that something changed about the way the game was played, coached and taught that has led to some of these long-term effects, right?  Is that your point basically?

CALLER:  Yeah, that's my point.  You know, prior to the plastic helmet, the leather helmet was just a hopeful safeguard against banging the player's head off the turf, and the turf is much softer than, you know, another player's helmet or head.  The plastic helmet gave the ability to hit forcefully with the crown of your head right above the forehead and, for the most part, come away unscathed. 

Obviously, as it continued more and more, we got more and more concussions.  I've had six recorded concussions.  I spent some time with Boston University in the Sports Legacy Institute really studying this thing because I want to know, you know, what I'm up against.  And they've helped me an awful lot in understanding how to deal with this.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm fine.  I'm gainfully employed and healthy.

RUSH:  Yeah, I understand, and you said you'd play it again if you had it to do over. If you knew everything you know now and you had it to do over again, you'd play it again.

CALLER:  Yep.  That's how much I love the game.

RUSH:  And so what do you think of the settlement? 

CALLER:  Well, it's not the settlement.  The settlement isn't about what causes dementia or CPE or whatever.  It's about when did the NFL start looking at all these injuries and going on their own and finding out, "Wow, we've got a trend here," and how long did they hold the trend away from their players?  If you look at the pre-1994 players, prior to the collective bargaining agreement there, they've got limited benefits for this kind of injuries.  The suit was never really about what causes them. Yes, you can't prove it while you're alive, but everybody knows what causes it.  The suit is about what did the NFL know and when did they know it, just like our attorney general and other folks, okay?

RUSH:  Well, it's a Watergate: What did the president know and when did he know it?

CALLER:  Yeah.

RUSH:  See, you believe, then, that the NFL has known that the game is damaging and riskier than they've ever been willing to tell the people that play it.

CALLER:  To the brain, not to the rest, okay?  Everybody knows that the broken legs and arms and the torn ligaments and things of that nature, that's part of it. Everybody knows that, okay?  But a concussion, something that's a closed-head injury, even in everyday life, is not something that's easily identified unless there's a trend in concussions like this.  I know guys that are a party to this suit that are in the Hall now that, you know, have a tough time from day to day. 

But all the NFL PA wants is the NFL to say, "We knew about this and we withheld the information from you."  Now, are they gonna do that?  No.  That's why they made the settlement, okay?  But proof of the fact that they know that is, if you just look at the rule changes in the NFL and what is new this year with the NFL, I think it caught last year for youth football.  "NFL Plays Safe."  What is that?  That's getting certified as a youth coach in the proper blocking and tackling techniques so that you don't lead with your head.

RUSH:  Well, I don't know how long... Look, I'm the wrong guy to have any authority on this.  I played two years of high school football, and I remember being told, "Do not lower your head. Whatever you do, keep your head up in contact.  Don't lower it."  I was a tackle.  I was an offensive lineman.  "Don't lower your head."  It's a natural thing to do. When you're encountering somebody, you're running the ball, you lower your head. 

I remember back in the sixties being coached, "Don't lower the head," and that was in high school, and that was just at one place.  I have no idea about anything beyond that.  But, Greg, look, I appreciate the call.  You have a very intelligent way to look at this. 

END TRANSCRIPT

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