NFL Evolution will feature a guest columnist every Tuesday, each with a different viewpoint of player health and safety from the youth level to pro football.
By Chris Golic, NFL Evolution columnist
Dear Former & Current Players,
A little more than a year ago I made the choice to join USA Football and the NFL as they launched USA Football's Heads Up Football program. The motivation for me to become involved was really two fold.
First, as a wife and a mother who had spent all of her adult life around every level of football, I had seen first-hand where the sport was and knew how much room for there was for change. I wanted to be a part of those working for change.
Secondly, I had grown tired of the constant barrage of negative stories the media was putting out there as if they were the norm of what all players experience or are destined to become. It was not the football my family and I had experienced. I understand the media's motivation for grabbing ahold of the sport's most unfortunate stories, to make news and attract viewership. They want to create buzz, and usually it's through negative reporting. That's their business. I recognize and accept it to a certain extent.
The one thing that I wasn't prepared for was hearing the voices of some players themselves saying that they would never let their sons play football. I was blown away that some were so quick to just make a statement like that about their sport. I asked myself how they could condemn the game that literally made them the men that they have become and a game that for many has set their families up for the rest of their lives.
As a parent I asked how can men who achieved success at the highest level of their chosen sport say no for the next generation to have the same opportunity. Essentially, they are saying they were allowed to realize their dream but hey if you want that same dream, they could not support you. As parents we should, of course, guide and protect our children, but we also should support our children and let them chase their dreams.
The landscape of football on every level, especially the youth and high school level, is improving and has changed significantly. Many people are working to make it a better and safer game. The experience of the next generation of players will look dramatically different from what many of today's players have experienced. I'm not naïve in thinking that somehow football will become 100 percent safe, but show me something in life that is. My experience tells me that life itself offers no guarantees when it comes to this.
I'm not the only one who has been surprised by how many have reacted to the concussion issue—even many doctors treating patients for these injuries are afraid that the high profile cases are overshadowing the strides that have been made in the treatment of sports related brain injuries. One doctor who last year saw thousands of patients estimated that concussions ended the careers of only five players he saw. He believes that the best way to deal with concussions is to manage it effectively when you have one, and that is something that just did not happen before. Other doctors believe pre-existing conditions could play a factor in those who suffer from brain trauma post career. We don't know for sure, but we do know more than we did a decade ago. We are heading in the right direction.
As I travel around and speak to mothers, I hear their concerns. When I talk to them, I do not try to convince them to let their child play football. Rather, my goal is to send them a more balanced, less sensationalized picture of where the game of football is headed and what work and changes are being made. It is then up to them to decide what is best for their family.
I am personally inviting every current and former player to see first-hand how the Heads Up Football program is changing the way the sport they grew up loving is taught and played. I know the players love the sport like the rest of us working on the program. I am hoping they will jump on board and help us make this great game stronger.
We won't turn anyone away. So what do you say, how about helping us build a better game of football instead of just saying no? Why not give back to the game that gave so much to you?
Christine Golic is the NFL's Consultant on Youth Football and a member of the Heads Up Football Advisory Committee. Golic is the wife of Mike Golic, a nine year NFL veteran and co-host of ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," and mother of two sons who played college football at Notre Dame and a daughter who is a swimmer at Notre Dame.