Cue Simpsons headline “old man yells at the cloud”: Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant, who turned 95 yesterday, said the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he believes the “boring” parts of football, including fair catches, game-ending knees, and touchbacks, should be removed from the game. Now, to you and me, those things are better known as measures that prevent unnecessary and dangerous injuries and improve player safety, but to be fair to Grant, they were still playing in leather helmets when he was in college. Change is difficult.
The nonagenarian coach, who managed the Vikings from 1967 to 1983 and again in 1985, suggested giving punt returners five yards and eliminating the free catch, moving the touchback to the 5-yard line and requiring the clock to stop if a team offensive does not. Don’t move at least one yard on a play (which opens a whole other can of worms to stop the clock, but I digress). As beloved as Grant may be, this is a bad take, particularly given what we now know about chronic traumatic encephalopathy and its effects on former members of Grant’s Vikings teams.
In 2017, a Boston University study of the brains of former NFL players found the degenerative disease CTE in 99% of the brains studied. This marked an important step in the groundbreaking journey of research that has changed the way many Americans view sports. Y four of the 111 brains in the study belonged to former Vikings players who played under Grant during his time in Minnesota.
The players included Wally Hilgenberg, Gerald Huth, Grant Feasel, and Fred McNeill, the latter of whom is one of the best-known names in the CTE sphere. His early-onset dementia and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) that led to his early death at age 63 were caused by CTE, and he was the first patient to be diagnosed with the disease while he was still alive and the first to confirm it. the death of him.
But the rest must also be remembered. Hilgenberg died of ALS caused by CTE at the age of 66. Huth died at age 77 after severe cognitive problems forced him to leave his insurance job at 57 and become permanently disabled. Feasel died at the age of 52 after suffering from years of substance abuse. And while these tragedies of his careers in the 1960s and 1970s were certainly not Grant’s fault, his choice to publicly declare that the game should be more physical and risk more head injuries is an insult to humanity. memory, legacy and families of these players.
In 2017, Hilgenberg’s widow, Mary, said to star tribune:
Head injury in football is a very serious problem. But if you speak against football, it’s like speaking against someone’s religion. But how can parents today allow their children to play football? Do they strap you in, but then take you to a soccer field? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Only this February, in fact, an NFL study found that punt returns and kickoffs cause more injuries and more serious injuries than other plays. While I’d like to give Grant the benefit of the doubt here, there really was no reason to ask. plus of this type of high-risk play that puts the health and safety of athletes at risk. It was found that there were a “disproportionate number of concussions” as well as lower body injuries on those plays. Since many of his former players suffered from CTE, he should be more sensitive to the issue.
So maybe I’m the old man shaking my fist at the clouds here, but considering his former players’ deaths from degenerative brain injuries, maybe Bud Grant should keep those sorts of thoughts to himself in the future instead of complaining. that he doesn’t watch enough live concussions on TV anymore.