“Linebackers can play a little bit dizzy. Quarterbacks can’t play when they’re dizzy.” These are just a few of the rambling statements made by Bill Romanowski on 5/9/12 in an interview with Chris McKendry on ESPN’s SportsCenter. He made remarks in response to Cris Carter’s comments the previous day regarding bounties. Carter alleged that years ago, Romanowski threatened to intentionally injure him before a game. Romanowski denied the allegation but went on to talk about how intensely he played the game – in his opinion, it wasn’t a good enough hit if he didn’t end up with dizziness or seeing stars. He actually used the phrase “getting his bell rung.” Seriously?? It’s poor form to use that phrase these days. He then went on to say, “This is football. This isn’t volleyball or baseball…” which implies that playing with a head injury should be the norm in football.
Statements like his make me cringe. I can’t believe this train of thought still occurs, especially with the recent suicides of retired NFL players and the impressive research regarding CTE. I really can’t believe that ESPN would interview a guy like Romanowski, given his obvious ignorance about concussion management. I understand his compulsion to respond to Carter’s allegation. And I understand that he played in a different time. It was okay to play “with your bell rung” in his days. But to still speak of it so callously? As they say on Monday Night Countdown, “Come on, man!”
Just as concerning were Derrick Mason’s comments on Outside The Lines on the very same day. “I don’t worry about concussion or head trauma as much at a younger age, because these kids don’t generate as much force as NFL players.” Clearly he doesn’t understand that kids are more susceptible and that their developing brains are much different than those of adults. I’m not saying that all NFL players, current and retired, should understand every aspect of concussion assessment, management, etc., but I do think that ESPN should be more careful about these interviews. Someone watching this show, who doesn’t understand much about concussion, may listen to Mason’s comments and believe them. What if a young father takes Mason’s comments to his son’s Pee Wee football game? To Mason’s credit, he believes that if a player is questionable for a concussion, he should sit out at least two games, no questions asked. At least something is sinking in.
This stuff is dangerous, and we need to be careful about what information is put out there for people to see and hear. It’s a hot topic right now. As a sports medicine professional, I’ll be the first to admit that we still have a lot of work to do before we fully understand concussion and all it involves. The good news is that this issue has become more well-known and discussed. I just hope the discussion doesn’t involve Bill Romanowski anymore.