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Football Players Ruining Bodies For Pleasure of Strangers.—

As Merle Kessler once observed:

"Football players, like prostitutes, are in the business of ruining their bodies for the pleasure of strangers."

Now come claims that Bill Belichick pressured one of his players to practice against the advice of the trainer, causing permanent brain damage (NY Times):

Former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson said coach Bill Belichick subjected him to hard hits in practice while he was recovering from a concussion — against the advice of the team's top trainer.

Johnson, who helped the Patriots win three Super Bowl titles before retiring two years ago, told The New York Times that a collision with another player during that 2002 practice led to another concussion. And, after sustaining additional concussions over the next three seasons, he now forgets people's names, misses appointments and suffers from depression and an addiction to amphetamines.

''There's something wrong with me,'' the 34-year-old Johnson said in Friday's Times. ''There's something wrong with my brain. And I know when it started.''

AK (mail):
Well, not the punters.
2.3.2007 11:08am
Jim, Duke of Monkeys:
Maybe his mental problems come from the amphetimines?
2.3.2007 11:29am
David Maquera (mail) (www):
No one held a gun to his head to keep playing. He could have just quit.
2.3.2007 11:38am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Right Dave. Yeah, I'm sure as he was working out he thought to himself "Yeah you know my head hurts and the trainer says I shouldn't be practicing, so I think I'm just going to throw away my entire career, my salary, and my future security, and just get up and walk out of here right now." You know, like people do all the time, from McDonald's employees to CEO's of major corporations. Well actually, nobody does that.

And besides, should a guy have to abandon his career because his coach is an ass who won't let him sit out of practice long enough to get over a concussion?
2.3.2007 12:06pm
R:
How are prostitutes in the business of ruining their bodies for strangers? Of course there is some risk involoved, mostly from running into a violent John, but that's like saying, "truck drivers are in the business of dying in car crashes for strangers."
2.3.2007 12:31pm
Scott Wood (mail):
Hearing about this incident leaves me wondering about the difference between:

1) A coach saying "We need a player who can do X. If, for whatever reason (including a medical reason), player Y can't do X we need to get a new player."

and 2) Player Y thinking "I'm going to get cut unless I violate my doctor's orders and do X."

I don't feel comfortable chosing a side without getting inside Belichick's heart and head.
2.3.2007 12:51pm
Tek Jansen:
Ted Johnson wasn't about to get cut, so it wasn't (2). But if Johnson couldn't practice, he couldn't play that week. He wanted to play, so he chose to practice, ignoring the doctor's orders. Belichek allowed him to practice, but Johnson could have chosen not to. Players do choose to sit out games, retire early, or retire after concussions.
2.3.2007 1:21pm
Lively:
R said:

How are prostitutes in the business of ruining their bodies for strangers?

A few years ago there was an article that ran in the WSJ that surveyed prostitutes in the major cities (LA, NYC, Las Vegas, etc.). According to the article, 100% of all prostitutes has some kind of STD. That's one way to ruin your body for sure.
2.3.2007 1:35pm
Jeremy T:
Two words: workmens' comp.
2.3.2007 1:48pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Anyone know how much poor Ted Johnson was getting paid that season? Perhaps he was doing it for the money rather than the pleasure of strangers?

We could test this. With two variables, remove one and observe the effect.

First, let's leave the money in, and remove the pleasure of strangers. Does he give up the multi-million dollar contract in favor of selling cars?

Second, let's remove the money, but include the pleasure of strangers. Does he give up the zero dollar contract in favor of selling used cars?

You be the judge.
2.3.2007 5:19pm
GUEST:
100% of prostitutes had some kind of STD? Are you kidding? Besides do you mean in their lifetime or currently?

And general population is..."An estimated 75 percent of the reproductive-age population has been infected with sexually transmitted HPV (Koutsky, 1997)." and that is ONLY for HPV!

also assuming that all those prostitutes aren't skewing this data too much.
2.3.2007 6:09pm
wwSTMd (mail):
It is a shame the medical staff cleared him to play. They should not have. If you have a concusion, then get hit again before you have healed from your first concussion your brain can turn into jelly. Ted was a great player and a true "stop the run" middle backer. The fact is though, that this happens all time. It should not though, the NFLPA should do a better job protecting their players by making sure the team Doc's do not put someone out there that can suffer this injury.

This is not Bill B's or Ted johnsons fault. This is either the Dr's fault or the NFLPA for allowing the system to be as it is.
2.3.2007 6:20pm
Public_Defender (mail):
The biggest difference is that football players choose to be football players. Many (most?) prostitutes are forced or coerced into it. That's why I favor making it legal to be a prostitute, but illegal to hire a prostitute or be a madam/pimp.

Bill Belichick may be indifferent to his players health, but no one forced Ted Johnson to join the team. Johnson may have a good moral or legal claim against Belichick or the trainers, but it's nothing like the wrong of some of the girls, boys and young women compelled into prostitution.
2.3.2007 6:35pm
godfodder (mail):
Living as we do in the "you're nobody 'til you got somebody to blame" society, I have to say I'm a bit skeptical of Mr. Amnesia's memory on this one. From the story:


''If Ted felt so strongly that he didn't feel he was ready to practice with us, he should have told me,'' Belichick said.


I doubt Belichick would have intentionally put a player at risk for a permanent brain injury just so he could practice. For the Big Game, maybe; but practice? No way.
2.3.2007 7:42pm
Baseballhead (mail):
As has been pointed out many times, most explicitly on PTI yesterday, the culture of football is such that if a player is ambulatory enough to strap on, they do. The coaches expect it, and they themselves expect it, and it's probably been the case since high school.

I don't blame Belichick, but I'm glad Johnson's saying something about it now. Coming on the heels of Andre Waters' suicide, hopefully team physicians will be more proactive towards head trauma. However, most players don't attain Johnson's stature or security. Those guys are still going to try and play through whatever concussion issues they might receive. It's vogue on this site to say that those players aren't forced to do what they do, but they shouldn't be expected to do so to keep their jobs, and hopefully, Johnson's actions may lead to a positive change in the culture.
2.3.2007 8:56pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Anyone who has interacted with coaches at any level knows of multiple instances of such abuse.
2.3.2007 11:08pm
AlanP (mail):
There is currently running an interesting story on Real Sports (HBO) concerning long term disaiblity benfits and disabilty pensions under the NFLPA.

The essence of the story is that players are frequently left crippled by their injuries from playing and the pension fund denies their claims on specious grounds.
2.4.2007 9:22am
wwSTMd (mail):
Ask Lavar Arrington what he thinks of the NFLPA.
2.4.2007 1:31pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Football is a variation of gladitorial games. Death and injury are the reasonably anticipated consequences of that sort of activity. Varsity Blues was, to my tastes, a better than average movie about football medical ethics. I've been calling for separation of sports and state for years. The most recent book I've read, Chuck Taylor: AllStar, by Abe Aamidor, traces the modern game of basketball to world war II troop training and morale efforts. It's not a coincidence that Eisenhower was a football coach. It's part of a culture of violence. Last I head, the bears were up by 8 at the first quarter, but my data is old, because I find this blog more entertaining than the superbowl.
2.4.2007 8:05pm
Houston Lawyer:
Young football players should speak to Earle Campbell before going into that sport. Football coaches are not looking out for the interests of the players, but of those who pay their salaries.
2.5.2007 11:15am