Sundays’s AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos will surely deliver on the hype. Can Brady take down Manning, again, or will Manning shake off the “ghosts of losses past” to Brady? Will the Patriots lose another game on the road or could the Broncos actually lose at Mile High Stadium? Well, one thing the two teams have shared in recent years is wide receiver Wes Welker, and how he plays on Sunday could make all the difference.
Whether you’re a Patriots fan or root for the Broncos, there is no question that Wes Welker is a great player who has helped both teams win games. But Welker is one of the latest players to fall prey to what has increasingly become a thorn in the side of the NFL…concussions.
In early December, Welker suffered his second concussion with the Broncos and didn’t return for five weeks. When he did return to play, against the Chargers last weekend, he was sporting a larger helmet and a mouthpiece intended to give him better protection against head injury. Experts wondered if the “enormous” helmet would be limiting, but it didn’t seem to prevent him from playing well.
While Ex-NFL players and their families continue to iron out a settlement with the NFL over monetary compensation for head trauma-related injuries, the football world, both professional and amateur, continue to grapple with how to better protect players while allowing guys to “just play the game”.
My 8-year old wants to play tackle football one day, just like his dad did in high school, but right now we’re sticking with flag football. We thought we would get some flak from him as some friends have moved on to Pop Warner, but after watching a television special on concussions, he seems to understand our concerns.
In fact, it’s my son who told me about “Heads Up”, an initiative to make the game of football safer for kids and young adults. It’s a program that instructs coaches on how to equip and teach kids the art of playing the game while minimizing concussion risk. In essence, it takes the heads out of football. If your child plays tackle football, please check to see if your league is “Heads Up” certified.
Hopefully, the AFC Championship game between the Patriots and the Broncos will be injury-free…on both sides. Same for the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. No one wants to see a player get clocked in the head, then lie dazed and confused on the field. It’s disturbing, no matter what team you’re cheering for.
That said, Go Pats!
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