Unreported Concussions: An Ominous Cloud Over the NFL

The RingerKuechly was sent sprawling before rolling over onto his stomach, writhing around with his appendages flapping. Players huddled around him. Voices hushed. Commercials happened. Kuechly eventually landed on the injury cart, looking decidedly less than superhuman. Was he really crying? Was something else going on?

I hopped on my iPad, Googled “Kuechly concussions” and learned that he had suffered one last season that sidelined him for weeks. This was his second. God knows how many undiagnosed ones he’s had.

 Whatever happened, Luke Kuechly went from “heat-seeking missile” to “hyperventilating, blubbering mess” in one play. The following morning, he appeared in this photo on Instagram:


… and that was supposed to make us feel better. Or something.

The NFL has upped the focus on concussions over the past decade or so and over at the swanky new offices at 345 Park Avenue in Midtown, maybe they think they are doing enough. In a recent conversation between The Ringer founder Bill Simmons and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, the future of the NFL is examined with Kuechly’s on-field breakdown fresh in their minds.

Simmons explains that had it been another time, he would have made a joke about Kuechly’s on-field display like he used to make jokes at Troy Aikman’s brains expense, but this is a new NFL and the rules have changed.

What really sticks out to me is that Simmons acknowledged that this was only Kuechly’s second reported concussion, but he places emphasis on the unknown variable of how many undiagnosed concussions he has had in his young football career.  While it is the big blows, the loss of consciousness on national TV that stands out to the outside world the repeated blows to the head on every play are a problem as well. The differentiation between a “major” and “minor” concussion is pointless. The NFL is driving an unstoppable train with thousands of lives on the line. If it doesn’t get control soon, it will derail.