The Will Smith film “Concussion” opening in theaters on Christmas Day will focus attention on one of the darkest sides of sport — in this case football, but the issue is far beyond just the subject sport — and the question of brain trauma and its consequences. If some of the attention may cause the NFL and other sports to squirm because of how they have or haven’t dealt with the threat, Bears Chairman George McCaskey isn’t afraid of the overall impact and in fact finds a potential major positive in something with well-known tragedies in its wake.
“The important part, I think, is that any attention on player health and safety is a good thing,” McCaskey said Friday. “The NFL’s made changes in recent years; rules changes; research is being funded. We need to improve the science. We need to improve the equipment and we need to improve the rules, need to improve the rules enforcement.
“And we think that the changes that we’re making in the NFL will filter down to all levels, college, high school, youth.”
The issue has struck deep and close into the Bears extended family. Super Bowl XX safety Dave Duerson committed suicide in 2011, shooting himself in the chest in order to preserve his brain for research into the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). His family has publicly criticized the film’s accuracy in portrayal of Duerson.
McCaskey, however, left to the family and film’s producers, instead underscoring the need to take actions on behalf of players.
“We need to do what we can for our former players across the board,” McCaskey said. “We owe it to them.”
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Whether current players see the film or not is “up to them,” McCaskey said, reiterating that “if it focuses attention on player health and safety, that’s a good thing.
“The changes that have been made in recent years — 39 safety-related rules changes in the last 10 years — if it sparks discussion, debate, that’s fine.”