The debate over the effects of head injuries sustained by NFL players intensified on Sunday after three quarterbacks, two defensive ends and a tight end suffered game-ending concussions.
The three quarterbacks – Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith – suffered concussions in their matches against the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Texans and the St Louis Rams.
Brandon Myers, an Oakland Raiders tight end, suffered his second concussion of the season in a heavy defeat by the Baltimore Ravens; the Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril was concussed in a defeat by the Minnesota Vikings; and the Bears defensive end Shea McClellin was also hurt.
The NFL's own injury round-up said the injuries to the three quarterbacks "could have long-term repercussions", perhaps referring to the likelihood of the players missing forthcoming games – Cutler and Smith could miss the Bears' meeting with the 49ers in Monday night football next week – but inevitably prompting thoughts of the growing evidence that NFL players risk long-term health problems as a result of head injuries sustained on the field.
Sporting News responded to the weekend's injuries by highlighting a finding of its annual midseason players' poll – that 56% of the players surveyed said they would hide the symptoms of concussion in order to stay on the field.
The Bears coach, Lovie Smith, was asked about why Cutler had played on after suffering the first of two hits to his head, a helmet-to-helmet "cheap shot" from the Houston linebacker Tim Dobbins. "Didn't have any symptoms, no,'' Smith said. "There were a lot of hard hits out there today. You can't start taking guys out for that. When they're injured, then we take them out.'' Cutler has reportedly suffered six concussions in his career.
The NFL's injury round-up also said that the Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson had suffered a non-specified head injury during his team's defeat by the New England Patriots. It quoted the Bills head coach, Chan Galley, as saying: "I don't know if they're calling it a concussion. I don't know what the word is. I don't know if it's a concussion or not. They didn't tell me."
Among its reports of calf, ankle and other lower-body injuries, the NFL also said that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Quincy Black had been taken to hospital after suffering a neck injury during his team's win over the San Diego Chargers. The NFL said he would undergo tests for spinal or neurological damage.
As media attention intensifies through stories of the health problems and deaths of former stars, the NFL is facing more than 3,000 brain injury-related lawsuits from former players and their families.
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image: © Keith Allison