Brees: Concussion awareness improving

METAIRIE, La. – New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was asked Wednesday for his reaction to the recently-aired PBS documentary “League of Denial,” which accuses the NFL of trying for years to dismiss the potential medical dangers of concussions.

Brees acknowledged that he thinks “there were mistakes made in the past in regards to what people knew or how it was handled.” But he mostly spoke positively about the increased awareness and education that has been embraced recently from the NFL down to the youth level of all sports.

He said he would let his own three sons play football when they’re the appropriate age.

“A lot of it is knowing when someone, say a kid, let’s say a 13-, 14-year-old or middle-school, high-school kid gets dinged or what have you, there’s protocol that should be in place,” said Brees, who is a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee. “I think people are more cognizant and more aware of it. It’s not just OK to leave them in the game.

“There’s concussion education that I think is taking place now more so than ever so that people can know the risks and know how to detect it and know the back-to-play protocol that needs to happen before you put a kid back out there to play. I think it goes for any sport, honestly. Yes, obviously in football. But you’re talking lacrosse, you’re talking hockey, you’re talking women’s soccer. I think that’s got the second-highest rate of concussions among sports. So every sport has that risk associated with it. As a parent, you want to understand what those risks are, and then know the protocol that needs to take place when something does happen.”

When asked if he thinks the NFL has an “image problem” after all the negative publicity that has come with a recent high-profile lawsuit and reports like the documentary and a soon-to-be published book of the same title, Brees said:

“A lot of it is education. I think certainly there were mistakes made in the past in regards to what people knew or how it was handled. But as we think about moving forward here, and especially when we talk about youth sports, there’s protocols that need to be in place and that need to be followed to a T because obviously it’s very serious stuff. You see the conditions that a lot of retired players are in based upon their experiences with head injuries and concussions in football and other sports. A lot of them are in bad shape. Certainly they deserve to be cared for and to be helped, and hopefully we can learn from that situation and make it better for those who come after us.”

And when asked if he thinks the NFL is doing a better job now with concussions than in the past, Brees said:

“I think the awareness level has been brought [to] the forefront, obviously, with the concussion lawsuits and the documentaries and other things that have been put out there for the public to see and be aware of. I think it’s all about education and then making sure you’re following the protocol once it’s put in place.”