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Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/19/14

Via NESN:

The concussion issue in the NFL has become a fraught battle, with everyone knowing that head injuries have some connection to later health concerns but no one sure of the best way to move forward or change the league.

Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison is among those looking back on his career in a different light as research continues to uncover new information about concussions. Harrison spoke with Bob Costas on "Costas Tonight" about his concussion history, and from what the former All-Pro said, it sounds like the NFL is at least getting one thing right by spreading awareness now.

Harrison said he estimates that he had at least 20 concussions in his NFL career, but he didn’t hear anything about the danger — or even that concussions existed — for several seasons. He wasn’t aware of the implications of such head injuries until “just recently.”

“My first year, in 1994, one of the first weeks of training camp, I hit Natrone Means,” he said. “He’s a 245-pound running back. I was knocked out. And not once in my first five or six years in the league did I even hear the word ‘concussion.’ And even on the field playing, I would get up, hit someone, the entire stadium was spinning around, and I would walk to the sideline, they would hold me out for one play, give me two Advil, and tell me to get back into the game.

“The NFL, if they’re guilty of anything, it’s the lack of awareness that they brought and the lack of education. They never told us or explained to us or even let us know what a concussion was.”

Harrison said he regularly experiences concussion symptoms, and as he looks at other players who are later in life and have been affected by head injuries, he’s worried about his future.

“I’m scared,” he said. “I’m 40 years old, and I’m scared. … I have four kids. I have a beautiful wife, and I’m scared to death what may happen to me 10, 15 years from now.”

Harrison also lost a former teammate, Junior Seau, to suicide this past May. An postmortem examination showed Seau had the degenerative brain disease CTE — often linked with repeated blows to the head — and many people have attributed his death to the lingering effects of on-field injuries.

Several solutions have been suggested to cut down on head injuries in football, but most come with controversy. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has implemented new rules that he says will significantly reduce the amount of hits that players take to the head, and the NFL has been tough about not letting players return to the field after concussions in recent years. Goodell has also been criticized, though, for calling for more games on the regular-season schedule and not working with the players’ union on its suggestions for player health.

Hard hits, especially to the head, are still an everyday part of the game, and making enough changes to eliminate serious head injuries could compromise the essence of the game. While advanced tests for brain damage and research into new helmets and safety measures are gaining traction, some fear that football will have to change considerably to keep players safe.

The one stride that has been made, though, is that everyone is talking about concussions now. As Harrison’s words attest, that’s a huge step from just a few years ago.

More from NESN.com:
10 Comments:
  • When will everyone on earth cease their compulsive bitching! The entire globe just sits around and looks for reasons to be pissed off. Arabs are pissed off becuase they were not represented and if they had been, they would have been pissed off because coke was targeting their children and setting them up for furture obesity issues. Seriously there should be prozac in the earths water supply....
  • Doesn't take a genius to know that concussions damage your brain. That is unless you are so stupid that you don't know what the heck a concussion is. If you play a sport as physical as football you must be a moron if you don't think you are going to have health problems afterword.

    You are the ones that sacrificed your bodies for the almighty buck. Stop the whining. I don't feel sorry for you. It was your decision. Now you have to live with it or maybe even die for it. No one forced your dumb butt to do it.

    Time to start taking responsibilities for your own actions and quit blaming some one else. Then again that's what's wrong with this country. Just look at the fool we elected President.
  • You're right. Just look at the President before him that stole 2 elections.
  • I've got the answer...very simple....lets sue the NFL for a billion dollars....raise the tickets price to 1k a game and then no one goes?? No game and you can go to work for a living like the rest of us
  • Lets see I am a policeman and no one forced me to be one so f I get hurt or killed, the nfl would not give a rats ass about me. so why should give a darn about a rich football player that was not forced to play so shut up
  • And when his mind goes, the TV viewer will be spared any further snarky comments from this jock/broadcaster(?).
  • Your an idiot Harrison, I always liked you but this right here changed my mind.You didnt care about your body when you were juicing, why now?
  • I agree with many of the comments here. They knew football was a dangerous sport and that they were risking their health by playing. Whether for the love of the game, the money, the fame, the women, or whatever they chose to play. You made your millions, you have your fame and maybe even immortalized with a bust in Canton and you traded your long-term health for it so quit your bitching. Want a competitive sport without the risk of injury then maybe you should have joined the chess club.
  • Although I have empathy for Rodney's fear, I cannot feel sorry for him. I played high school ball and was knocked out during a game and came back and played in it. That was in 1978. I knew or was informed about concussions back then. I've heard about it since then. "Getting your bell rung" was the term used for it back then.

    The real problem is, the football player themselves. They workout year round. They are bigger, stronger, and faster. The impact as well as the way NFL players "hit", causes the problem because, be honest, hardly anyone tackles in the NFL. They are going for the highlight film hit, and if possible, intimidate the player they are trying to "tackle".

    He used football as a tool to get his education while playing college ball, and had the honor to play pro football. Pro football, is a business. In fact, some college programs are businesses ( Alabama, LSU, Michigan, USC, Florida etc...). He says the NFL didn't warn or inform him, and I believe that's not true. The thing with the NFL is, if you can't play, there is someone to replace you, so either you stay on the field till you can't make the play, or you're carried off. You're a modern gladiator, so that's what it is. Free will, nobody twisted your arm to play. Let's fix the problem. Take off the face masks. That will force players to use their shoulder pads instead of lowering their heads....
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