Concussion issue 'not going away' for CFL: Former player
Published Tuesday, September 3, 2013 10:55AM EDT
In the wake of the U.S.-based National Football League’s multimillion-dollar settlement of former players’ brain injury lawsuits, a former Canadian Football League player is hoping the CFL can deal with the concussion issue in its own way – away from the courts.
Former defensive lineman Tim Fleiszer – who won Grey Cup championships with four different teams – says that, while the CFL has already made changes that make the game “far, far safer” than it used to be, the concussion issue is “not going away” anytime soon and needs a “co-ordinated” solution.
“My hope is that in Canada, rather than pursuing a litigious solution, I’m hoping that perhaps we can have a more co-ordinated solution that involves non-governmental organizations,” Fleiszer told CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday.
In the course of his 10-year professional career, Fleiszer suffered various head traumas including three confirmed concussions.
“I think at the time we didn’t know how potentially serious some of this stuff was,” he said. “I think certainly the game is much safer than it was five years ago before we started to talk about this issue.”
Fleiszer is now part of the Sports Legacy Institute, a non-profit group committed to advancing the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes through education, policy and research.
Fleiszer thinks governments need to work together with private companies and non-governmental groups to prevent concussions in Canadian sports.
Even former players can play a role in education and awareness, he said.
“It’s funny, you talk to those guys about their own health and they tend to dismiss it, but when you ask them to go speak to kids, for instance, you get a tremendous response from them,” Fleiszer said.
The NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit by former players who developed dementia or concussion-related brain disorders they say were the result of playing the game.
While the CFL’s commissioner Mark Cohon wouldn’t comment on the settlement, on Monday he told reporters he thought the CFL had taken steps to address the concussion issue “well before” the NFL.
“What we’ve been doing for years now is putting the right protocols in place,” he told reporters before a Stampeders-Eskimos game in Calgary on Monday. “We actually had protocols in place on our sidelines well before the NFL had them.
“We look at discipline, we look at concussion protocols, we look at education. This is all part of the process (of) what we do with our players, with our doctors to make sure that our players are safe.”
The commissioner’s comments came approximately two weeks after veteran Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo suffered a concussion during a game in Regina on Aug. 17.
Cohon said the league is doing everything it can to look after the 41-year-old, who is still reportedly experiencing headaches and vision problems.
“Anthony has had concussions in the past” Cohon said. “A lot of our players have had concussions.
“You never like to see your star player go down, but I think the most important thing is making sure that we look after that player.”