Football Tackles a Big Problem

Article excerpt

Byline: Marcus Allen

Behind the excitement over the Super Bowl in February is a problem that the National Football League is now coming to terms with: committing to eliminating play-related concussions, which can lead to neurological ailments later in life. For years, many believed, the league dragged its feet on the issue, and then, late last year, a spokesperson acknowledged that it was "quite obvious from the medical research that's been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems." For many, the reversal brought to mind Big Tobacco's reluctance to admit the link between smoking and cancer.

But it's too easy to blame the NFL for not tackling the issue earlier. The players know there is another side to the story. For decades the culture was to show no pain. When I played at the University of Southern California between 1978 and 1981, head coach John Robinson would tell me, "Never let 'em know you're hurt." He cared about his players' well-being, of course, but he knew that looking tough was a part of mastering the psychological aspects of the game. So when I got hit, my only priority was getting up--no matter what. Later, when I played for the Los Angeles Raiders, I got kicked in the head during a playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks and had to be assisted off the field. I must have convinced the medical staff I was OK because I went back in for a play. But I was not lucid; I remember nothing about most of the quarter. …