The surest way to avoid a football-related concussion is to stop playing football.
It's a path retired quarterback Kurt Warner has considered promoting, and one retired running back Merril Hoge strongly rejected during a provocative Friday. Both suffered multiple concussions as players.
Concussions forced Hoge, now an ESPN analyst, to retire. They severely affected his quality of life. The fear of additional concussions played at least some role in Warner's decision to retire following the 2009 season.
"I understand how great the game of football was for me, and what it did for my family, but when I'm sitting back and watching my kids play, my boys play right now -- they love it, their dream is to play in the NFL -- I worry about it," Warner told Colin Cowherd.
Warner was speaking from the heart only days after Junior Seau's suicide amplified concerns over what role, if any, head trauma might have played in the retired linebacker's demise.
"I worry about the long-term effects for me personally," Warner continued. "I worry about what can happen after football, as we've seen with a number of guys. I worry about what could happen at a younger age. ... With the way things are going right now and the way guys are getting bigger and stronger and faster, I would encourage my kids to probably stay away from it, if I could."
Hoge, meanwhile, has thought through this issue to a degree most others have not. He used the words "uneducated" and "uninformed" to describe Warner's take on the situation.
"When you think about what the problem is, it is not head trauma," Hoge said. "It is how head trauma is cared for. That is the issue. You are going to have concussions in every sport known to man. You're going to have them riding a bike. My son is 16, played football for eight years. He has had one concussion and that came from falling off a bike, hitting his head on a curb, splitting his helmet open. That doesn't mean I don't let him ride the bike."
Warner's response was understandable. In listening to his conversation with Cowherd, it was clear to me that Warner was still formulating his thinking on the matter. Hoge has a much stronger opinion.
"In Kurt Warner's situation, there was a chance to inform and educate those that are uninformed and uneducated," Hoge said. "Instead of scaring them away from the game, make them embrace the game by doing this: get involved, Kurt Warner. Get involved with your kids and their programs, make sure they are following the right guidelines. If your son is concussed, if your daughter is concussed in soccer or whatever, what are you doing for that player? Are you removing him from the game? Do you have the proper procedures in place? That is what is critical."
Warner could already be doing the things Hoge encouraged him to do, for all we know. The bottom line, in my view, is that the discussion is moving forward.