LaDarius Owens: Playing the game is a choice

May 1, 2014


LaDarius Owens is a senior Auburn defensive end and a communications major. He was a 4-star recruit out of Jess Lanier High School in Bessemer. He shares his thoughts about the controversy surrounding concussions in college and professional football.

By LaDarius Owens
For AuburnTigers.com

When many people hear or think of football, the first thing that comes to mind is big, masculine men colliding violently on the field. It would seem football is the sport people both love and hate.

We love to watch the big hits of the game, but then we turn around and act surprised and upset when we see injuries as a result of the big collisions. In particular, there has been a large emphasis recently on players suffering from concussions and the aftereffects.

When the NFL agreed in August 2013  to pay $765 million to settle hundreds of cases accusing the league of hiding information about the dangers of concussions, it hoped that would end all the scrutiny and the fans would get back to focusing on the games and players they love to watch. However, numerous players are still rejecting that settlement offer and filing their own separate law suits. Most players who are doing such things are retired and want the NFL to pay up.

I believe the NFL is doing everything it can do to prevent concussions in today's game, just as the colleges are doing. We have excellent athletic trainers and doctors who work with us on a daily basis. And as far as those former players who have suffered from concussions, I believe the NFL has tried to show remorse by offering the $765 million settlement.

I find it interesting that football gets so much negative publicity when it comes to the concussion. Yes, football is a “gladiator” sport – some say one of the few we have left -- but what about hockey, boxing, or even NASCAR? Those sports are just as dangerous as football, if not even more. I do not know of one hockey player who hasn’t had a concussion at least once. But when it comes to football nowadays, every hit has to be viewed and diagnosed to determine whether it was fair or dangerous or not. I do not feel that is right. Before you know it, they are going to turn football into flag football.

I speak from the viewpoint of a current college football player with aspirations of becoming an NFL player in the near future. Given the exposure and knowledge we now have of the dangerous aspects of football and the concussions that come from the game, those risks are not stopping me or any of my fellow players from playing. They are not making the sport any less popular.

We know what this game is and the risk we take every day we go onto that field. That is our decision to make. We know the safety measures developed through equipment to try and keep the players as safe as science says is possible and we have great coaches who teach us proper technique and skills. I also know that brain damage does not come from just one concussion; it is a result of multiple concussions. Therefore any of those former players could have chosen to quit playing after their first concussion. They chose to play this game just as I did, and I'm going to continue to play because I love the game and just pray nothing happens to me that will harm my future of living a normal, healthy life. I would not stop my kids from playing the sport, either, because if that is what they want to do, I'm not going to stand in the way of them playing the game the right way.

Football is the ultimate team sport. Concussions are a part of that game sometimes; does that mean we should not play or that we should not allow our children to play? The positives of playing this great sport outweigh the bad.

Football teaches hard work, discipline, toughness, and the importance of teamwork. These attributes will benefit everyone, no matter what profession they later choose.

Participating in football is a choice, and you have to balance the possible risks with the possible rewards. Not one player is forced to play a down. It is a choice and, just like anything else in life, there are consequences to every decision, no matter what it may be.