Imrem: Should we care if NFL players do not?

  • Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White, left, arrives for an NFL football training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

    Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White, left, arrives for an NFL football training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

Updated 7/26/2017 7:18 PM

Today's question is whether fans still are obligated to worry about brain damage in the NFL.

If players insist on playing this dangerous game and even insist on hiding head injuries to keep playing it … should we care if they don't care?


The issue surfaced this week when the subjects of concussions and training camps rammed head-on into each other.

(How fitting considering that football's appeal is as a collision sport.)

Tuesday another study strongly suggested that participants in this sport are vulnerable to brain damage.

The next day, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox giddily expressed "excitement" and "optimism" over the coming season.

The Bears were reporting for training camp at the time, scores of them eager to earn jobs that would give them the opportunity to discombobulate their cranial areas.

The issue wasn't dwelled upon during the Pace-Fox media briefing, so it's almost as if it is what it is and that's that, now go hit somebody.

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I can't say that I don't care anymore about football head injuries. It's still scary to see a player wobble off the field with his head clearly unclear.

To be honest, though, others in the world are more worthy of concern.

• Like kids with cancer, seniors with Alzheimer's, anyone of any age with any serious medical issue.

Nobody volunteers for cancer, is paid handsomely for having Alzheimer's or tries to beat out other candidates for the privilege of suffering severe health problems.

• Like NFL players of previous eras who now harbor suicidal tendencies because of brain trauma.

Guys who played through the 1980s or so weren't pounded on the head with analyses that spelled out how dangerous pounding each other on the head could be.


• Even like cruelty to animals in the circus -- not the sports variety but the Ringling Bros. variety that just folded its tent.

It took nearly a lifetime for me to acknowledge that it's inhumane to treat circus animals like, well, like circus animals when they have no choice in the matter.

Now back to current NFL players: In this era they're aware of football's risks, do have a choice and still sign up to play the game.

This week's news was everywhere for players to read, hear and digest: national newspapers, local newspapers, network TV, cable TV, all-news radio, all-sports radio, the internet, social media, barrooms, diners, churches … even in their own locker rooms.

The headline was of 111 deceased NFL players whose brains were studied, 110 had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Yet young men continue to aspire to earn the limited number of jobs in the NFL.

When Shea McClellin was a Bears rookie, I asked him whether he was concerned about the condition football could leave him in. Like most players, he sounded like he believed he'll be that one in 111 who won't suffer CTE.

Even if a player expects in his own mind that his own mind will turn to mush some day, the NFL's money, glory and rush are hard to resist.

So many of these men make a conscious decision to take what the game offers now and worry about the consequences later.

If they're not worried about themselves, tell me, are we obligated to worry about them?

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