Usually, I end up not regretting the blog posts that I don't write, usually because of lack of time or whatever; this time, it's different. I had meant to say something back in October about the Eagles' Brian Westbrook and his concussions, the idea being that everyone seemed a little too focused on the question of how quickly the Birds were going to get their star running back back out on the playing field, and not focused enough on the issue of keeping Westbrook healthy for a long and productive life after the NFL. Unfortunately, like a lot of us, the sports compartment of my brain back then was 100 percent filled with the Phillies in the World Series and I never got around to writing about it. Of course, what happened next was sad but unsurprising. Westbrook did return quickly, almost immediately suffered a second concussion, and now everyone is talking about whether he should retire.
Sam Donnellon thinks so, and I agree:
I am not a neurologist, nor do I play one in print or on television. But if "the No. 1 thing is Brian's health," as Andy Reid said yesterday, then there really is only one thing for Brian Westbrook to do:
Yep. For the last few weeks there was a striking disconnent between the real world where the NFL is doing a terrible job of explaining its problems with head injuries and the high rates of early dementia, depression, suicide, and other related problems for some players after they retire, and Philadelphia, where that story was downplayed even as the question of how quickly could the concussion-afflicted Westbrook could play again was the main (non-Phillies) sports story in town, night after night.
Donnellon helps bring us up to speed:
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., played a TV interview of [Dr. Ira] Casson [the NFL's paid expert] during the hearings in which he denied evidence of a link between multiple head injuries in NFL players with brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's. She likened it to tobacco companies denying a link between smoking and health damage in the 1990s.
Ultimately, the decision is Westbrook's, as it should be. We don't -- and shouldn't -- live in a world where we simply shut down any kind of risky behavior; we're always going to have auto racers and mountain climbers and thrill seekers [like Steve Irwin, for example] who know there's a significant element of danger in what they do, but do it because it's part of their reason for living in the first place. In the case of Westbrook, he deserves the best medical care and the best -- and most realistic -- advice on earth, so he can make an informed decision.
But Westbrook has already accomplished great things on a football field that we merely mortals could only dream of, scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl and peeling off some of the greatest plays in Eagles' history. It's time for him -- and for Philadelphia -- to start focusing on what comes next.