Head Games: Steelers Polamalu Admits To Hiding Concussions


Steelers Safety and resident Captain Insano, Troy Polamalu, stated today on the Dan Patrick Show that he has hidden concussions in the past.  Those ‘lies’ helped keep him on the field for the rest of the game in order to finish out with his ‘brothers.’  It’s not a new revelation – Brian Urlacher admitted to it back in February – but as Polamalu steps forward, it makes me wonder how many other football players sneak a concussion or two past the on field docs during a game.

I’ve played my fair share of sports growing up, and with that has come a fair share of getting my clock cleaned from time to time.  I’ve ‘seen stars’ or had my vision become slightly out of focus – for even just mere seconds.  Were they concussions?  I have no idea.  Being a product of the 80’s and 90’s, high school sports lacked the thoroughness that it has today in enforcing strict safety in sports.  I’ve played through every one of those moments (probably half a dozen) and was never officially diagnosed with a concussion by doctors.  But that doesn’t take away the strong chance that I indeed suffered one.  And that knowledge is the Holy Grail in the NFL.

In the case of Polamalu, Troy admits that he’s played through potential head injuries as well as other kinds of injuries.  He equates it to a knee injury where you just play through something like that because you don’t want to let your team, your brothers, down.  Polamalu smears the line of what a concussion is and what a hard hit that just leaves you woozy.  And should he really feel qualified to do that?

"‘When you get your bell rung they consider that a concussion — I wouldn’t … If that is considered a concussion, I’d say any football player at least records 50 to 100 concussions a year.’"

I’m not saying that he’s belittling what the function of team doctors are.  But he is certainly downplaying the notion that just because you feel a bit woozy after sustaining a hard hit (or in his case launching yourself at the ball carrier) doesn’t mean you have a concussion.  And, if that feeling does indeed mean you sustained one, then it’s happening practically all the time.  A little bit of a dramatic reach if you ask me.  But it does point the spotlight on one thing – accountability.

If a player lies or hides his condition after sustaining a heavy blow to the head (assuming that they have the ability to do so) and returns quickly to the field, then does that make the NFL liable for any head injury ever sustained?  Sure, the current lawsuit involving 2,400 retired players is mainly focused on the fact that the NFL has potentially hid the fact that they knew the long term affects of head injuries.  But, with guys like Urlacher and Polamalu admitting to going out on the field anyways – does that hurt the current case or subsequent cases against the NFL?  Couldn’t an argument be made by the NFL that even if they had the policies in place then that they do now, players would find ways (like lying) to circumvent the system?  Doesn’t that make the case null and void?

Polamalu’s statements are a bit disturbing.  I applaud him for his fortitude and perseverance during a football game – playing through injury in order to support your team and do anything you can to win the game.  That takes guts.  But admitting that you’ve purposefully hid head injuries won’t help you win Johnny Role Model Of The Year.  I think it sets a bad example to young athletes in whatever sport that it’s ok to hide something like that…. or at least attempt to.  Head injuries are a serious deal in the NFL and in sports.  Playing through injuries like an ankle or knee is one thing.  You can live without your foot or leg.  But your brain is a precious thing.  To go mad is a terrible thing. Ask Junior Seau.

I think I would have been better off having not known the truth behind what Polamalu does when he gets his bell rung.  The question now is – will team doctors be more strict with him knowing that he hides concussions?  Also, what will be the fallout from statements like these?  Will the retired players have a more difficult time seeking reparations against the NFL in their lawsuit?  What about future lawsuits?

I’m not sure why Polamalu decided to ‘come clean’ now.  But this type of head game may certainly have a far greater impact than he could have imagined by just speaking his mind on the Dan Patrick Show.