Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jahvid Best's Concussion Lawsuit is Proof the System is Flawed

Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best could have been the next big thing had it not been for too many concussions. After all, he was an absolute beast in college averaging over eight yards a carry as a sophomore and six yards as a junior. To run the ball well over 100 times each season and do that is impressive to say the least.

However, too many concussions cost him his career before it ever had a chance to start, and he wants to get paid because of that.

Best is suing the NFL for even allowing him to enter the draft and have the opportunity to play in the NFL. The logic is pretty straightforward. After the two documented concussions he had--one that made national news and put an end to his college career--he is saying that he never should have been medically cleared to enter the draft.

If it was just about concussions the NFL would be right. The league has already stated that it feels his case is without merit, but what else can they say? That they messed up? Of course not! They did their testing. They gave him what was likely the most thorough physical known to man. The NFL relies on an infusion of new, young talent every season to continue providing fans with the best product possible. Drafting and playing damaged goods would be bad business.

That being said, there still should have been a serious red flag put up in Best's case.

The hit that cost his last concussion was pretty fierce (see above). It was not surprising that it cost him his final three game in '09, but it was interesting that five weeks after the hit (which occurred on November 7) he was ruled out for a game that was still a week away (the decision was made on December 16th; Cal's bowl game as on the 23rd).

It is not unusual for a player to return a week or two after getting a concussion, but when he is still feeling the effects five weeks later to the point that the team knows another week will not help--well, that's pretty serious.

Kudos to Cal for not playing him. To do so would have made them negligent, but they clearly operated in the best interest of Best in this situation by not allowing him to play.

For a player to take that long to recover the concussion must be pretty severe. Now to get cleared they do have to pass a battery of tests, but when it gets to a point that a couple months is not enough time to heal sirens should be going off. 

How bad is the brain hurt?

What kind of damage is acceptable?

Should any damage be acceptable?

I can recall reading an article years ago--before John Elway led the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl wins--that Elway already had suffered a percentage of brain damage due to concussions, but he felt like he still had a few good years (which he obviously did). With the job he has done running the Broncos the last few years the damage must not have been too bad, right?

The question comes down to responsibility. Best was seriously hurt in college; the college did not allow him to play. He knew he was damaged goods, but likely trusted the NFL to tell him if he could still play or not, or maybe he hoped he could put one over on the NFL, get drafted, sign a contract, and get paid anyway.

After the production the NFL watched Best have the last two years--in spite of his injuries--the league had to think he had the potential for greatness. For it to survive and thrive it needs guys like Best on the field. However, if a flawed product is allowed on the field the end product suffers.

At the same time if someone is denied access they would likely sue.

In the end it is all about the money and not nearly enough about the health of the player. Both the league and Best wanted to make it. Did someone due something wrong by letting him on the field? Technically--no. The rules were followed and he passed the test. 

However, morally he should have never been allowed on that field. He suffered too many head injuries in a relatively short amount of time--and we are just talking about the ones that are documented. There is no telling how many may have gone unreported. For him to fail to recover in a reasonable amount of time leds reason to believe he has had other unreported concussions.

Over the last few years there has been a ton of concern about head injuries and recognizing when they happen, but there has not been a lot of talk about when enough is enough and when a player should be cut off. As long as there is so much money for both to make there probably will not be any coming anytime soon. 

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