NFL players, soldiers discuss concussions

NFL players and U.S. soldiers have been meeting to discuss

concussions, and plan to get together frequently in the future.

Current players such as Arizona star receiver Larry Fitzgerald

and Cleveland All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas met last Friday at the

Pentagon with former players and coaches, league medical personnel

and representatives from the U.S. Army and Marines. The NFL expects

to have military members attend team training camps beginning in

late July to further exchange ideas.

Players will attend military bases in the future to discuss

concussions, as well.

The cooperation between players and soldiers was initiated from

several trips Commissioner Roger Goodell has taken with military

personnel.

Goodell met last fall with Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of

Staff of the Army, and Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of

staff. Odierno met with Goodell again last month to discuss

progress in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, head trauma

and resultant illnesses.

On hand last Friday among the players were Fitzgerald, Thomas,

Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who is a union player rep, and Falcons

linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Former players included receiver

Derrick Mason, who retired this week as a Raven; centers Shaun

O’Hara and Courtney Hall; running back Brian Westbrook; defensive

linemen Hollis Thomas and Mike Rucker; running back Merril Hoge,

who was forced to retire because of post-concussion syndrome.

Former Jets and Browns head coach Eric Mangini also attended, as

did trainers for the Steelers, Ravens and Redskins.

”The idea is that these are men and women who have shared

values and a strong commitment to their team or their unit,” said

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, who also attended Friday’s meeting.

”They are all focused on accomplishing a mission or winning a

game.”

The players and military personnel also talked about treatment

of other injuries, ensuring they are seeking and getting proper

treatment – and being open with teammates or fellow soldiers who

might be hurt and are trying to hide or ignore it.

Equipment and gear also were discussed, particularly helmet

technology.

Several players and soldiers mentioned there could be a

reluctance to be honest with their peers, but when they hear

similar injury or concussion stories from another group that they

respect, it’s easier to open up.

They should have many chances to do so again.