‘CONCUSSIONS ONCE SEEMED LIKE A PHANTOM INJURY’

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Eric Hill, a former LSU and NFL linebacker, said that concussions caused by head-to-head tackling were common when he played football. Photo credit: Jessica Speziale, LSU Manship School News Service)

Posted: January 27, 2021

By: Jessica Speziale and Henry Weldon, LSU Manship School News Service

This is the second story in a two-part series from the LSU Manship School News Service about the dangers of concussions in high school football games in Louisiana and efforts at schools, universities, and the NFL to make the sport safer.

Back when Eric Hill played linebacker for LSU and in the NFL, every tackler had the same mindset: “You kill the head, you kill the body.”

Hill, who retired from football in 2000, remembers coaches at every level telling him to use his helmet as a weapon. That created a greater risk of concussions for both players. But the NFL was like “the wild, wild West” then, he said, with few safety rules, and concussions seemed like “a phantom injury” since few people were aware of the serious effects.

If a player got his bell rung, he had ammonia packs in his sock to sniff and keep playing.
“You could just grab one, and ‘all right, I’m good,’” Hill said. “That’s how we did it.”

Hill played 11 seasons in the NFL, mostly for the Cardinals in St. Louis and Phoenix. He also was a captain of LSU’s SEC Championship team in 1998. He had seven documented concussions in the NFL, but he suspects he might have had up to 100 throughout his career.

One sticks out in his mind. His team was facing the New York Giants when he scooped up a fumble. Another player came in and hit him on the side of the head. He dropped the ball and then instinctively headed back to the huddle.

“To this day, they were saying it was, like, three plays where I had no idea what I was doing,” Hill said.
The concerns about concussions surfaced after the first case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in 2005 in the brain of Mike Webster, a former center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they have since prompted efforts to make tackling–and football itself–safer at every level, from youth and high-school leagues on up through college and the pros.

As more brains of deceased NFL players were examined, nearly all came back with the same result: CTE. Many of the players suffered from severe mood swings, and some committed suicide. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder and, at 27, hung himself in his jail cell in 2017. Researchers determined that he had one of the most severe cases of CTE for someone his age.

Read more at eunicetoday.com

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