CLEVELAND - When moderator Frank Luntz asked eight panelists, former Browns players and military personnel, how many of them had suffered concussions, five hands went up.
The Cleveland Browns and the Ohio Army National Guard held a forum Wednesday evening to discuss changing the culture surrounding head injuries.
The battlefields of the Middle East and the football fields of the NFL may seem like worlds apart, but the two share many commonalities like duty, commitment and teamwork. For both groups, finishing a mission often is more important than admitting personal pain.
“Soldiers get hurt and NFL players get hurt,” said Col. Robert Johnson, a physician with the Ohio Army National Guard.
“And one of the biggest problems we had in Afghanistan was keeping the soldiers on the forward operating base and not allowing them to go back out in the field because they didn’t want to let their buddies down. I think that’s true in the NFL too,” he added.
Three former Cleveland Browns, Greg Pruitt, Franks Stams and Antwan Peek, discussed playing with injuries and the fear of being taken out of a lineup with an injury and the effect it could have on their careers.
One of the members of the military understood their career concerns.
Master Sgt. Kevin Colwell’s armored vehicle was compromised by a missile while serving in Afghanistan. A missile tore completely through it. He and three comrades miraculously survived the attack. He did suffer a head injury and today suffers with migraine headaches. At first, he declined medical treatment.
“I’m a member of an elite organization, kind of a lot like the players here. I’m a Green Beret Army Special Forces… If I come out the game, it’s like Antwan says here, there’s probably somebody waiting to take the job behind me,’” Colwell said.
Some change of culture already has taken place, according to panelists. Players today will sometimes report to team medical personnel when one of their teammates isn’t behavior normally following a hit, something former Browns player Stams said never happened when he played.
The Browns hosted the event, held in the BrownsTown area at Cleveland Browns Stadium, in part because the NFL recognized the partnerships the team has with the military and for its educational involvement concerning concussions.
Medical professionals from the Browns, the National Guard and the Cleveland Clinic took part in the forum as well.
“It’s about changing the culture and having that open dialog, so we’re not looking for solutions to come out of here but just start those conversations,” said Renee Harvey, Browns vice president of Community Outreach.
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