Poll shows concussion awareness is on the rise

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Ask Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew whether he would try to play through a concussion or yank himself from a game, and he’ll provide a straightforward answer.

“Hide it,” the NFL’s leading rusher said.

“The bottom line is: You have to be able to put food on the table. No one’s going to sign or want a guy who can’t stay healthy. I know there will be a day when I’m going to have trouble walking. I realize that,” Jones-Drew said. “But this is what I signed up for. Injuries are part of the game. If you don’t want to get hit, then you shouldn’t be playing.”

Other players say they would do the same: Hide it.

In a series of interviews about head injuries with The Associated Press over the past two weeks, 23 of 44 NFL players – slightly more than half – said they would try to conceal a possible concussion rather than pull themselves out of a game. Some acknowledged they already have. Players also said they should be better protected from their own instincts: More than two-thirds of the group the AP talked to wants independent neurologists on sidelines during games.

The players tended to indicate they are more aware of the possible long-term effects of jarring hits to their heads than they once were. In a sign of the sort of progress the league wants, five players said that while they would have tried to conceal a concussion during a game in 2009 game, now they would seek help.

“You look at some of the cases where you see some of the retired players and the issues that they’re having now, even with some of the guys who’ve passed and had their brains examined – you see what their brains look like now,” said Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, the NFL’s leading tackler. “That does play a part in how I think now about it.”

But his teammate, backup fullback Mike Sellers, said he’s hidden concussions in the past and would “highly doubt” that any player would willingly take himself out of a game.

As it is, while the players tend to feel better about the way concussions are handled now than in 2009, they won’t deny that dangers lurk.

“You’re never going to be totally safe from concussions in this game,” Oakland Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt said. “This is the only place where you can actually legally assault people.”

POLL WAS EXTENSIVE

The Associated Press recently interviewed 44 NFL players – at least one from each of the league’s 32 teams – to gauge whether concussion safety and attitudes about head injuries have changed in the past two years.

Of those who participated in the Dec. 14-22 interviews, 33 are starters, 11 are reserves; 25 play on offense, 19 play on defense; all have been in the league at least three seasons.

The questions and answers, along with the number of respondents:

Specifically with regard to concussions, is playing in the NFL safer, more dangerous or the same as it was in 2009, when the issue first began to get a lot of attention?

• Safer: 28

• Same: 13

• More Dangerous: 2

• Not sure: 1

If you get what you think could be a concussion, do you think you would hide it and try to stay in the game or immediately pull yourself out?

• Hide It: 23

• Immediately Leave: 21

Is that a change from 2009?

• Yes: 7

• No: 26

• No Answer: 11

Can more be done to protect players from head injuries?

• Yes: 18

• No: 24

• No Answer: 2

Should the NFL have independent neurologists at games to examine players and determine whether they should be held out because of concussions?

• Yes: 31

• No: 10

• No Answer: 3

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