During last Saturday's game in Houston, Denver Broncos star wide receiver Wes Welker suffered his third concussion in less than a year. If his past record means anything, Welker will probably have to sit out a few weeks before getting back to running routes for Peyton Manning. Yet according to insiders, this will be around the tenth concussion that Welker will have experienced in his career. With the data on traumatic brain injuries growing ever more alarming and conclusive, how many concussions does it take to force a radical reevaluation of football's overall safety?
The results of extensive medical research on the effects of multiple concussions leave little doubt as to their potential long-term risks. It's not just anyone suffering from neurodegenerative disease, either, but a roster of the NFL's past top players, including men from Hall-of-Famer Tony Dorsett, who announced his fight with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) last year, to All-Pro Junior Seau, who tragically took his own life in 2012 after the pain of CTE became unbearable. And then we should remember the massive suit filed against the NFL by over 4,500 former players over neglected concussion dangers.
In this year's NFL preseason alone, there have already been 64 concussions diagnosed - that's up from 40 last year, well over a 50% increase. Part of the reason for the uptick is increased vigilance by teams' medical staff, which is a positive indicator of the league's awareness of the problem. New "heads up" tackling techniques are also being emphasized while "head first" tackles are now subject to stiff penalties and fines. Even so, in a high-impact sport like football, players will continue face traumatic brain injuries, with potential lifelong repercussions.
Wes Welker is an incredible athlete, and we're sure there are few things enjoyable as the thrill of victory to the roar of the crowd. At the same time, he should realize that his life beyond the playing field matters even more, especially for his family. It's time for Welker and all of us to rethink the consequences of this game.