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It’s time for Brett Favre to finally come clean. I refuse to believe that he keeps playing football because of his love for the game. I’m convinced that all those blows to the head may have him thinking that he is actually 25 years old again.

Because of this (and other reasons), I applaud NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s efforts to change the way the league views concussions. The commissioner implemented new rules late last season that kept players who showed symptoms of a concussion from returning to a practice or a game.

Critics of Goodell have said he’s “wussifying” the league. Purists point to the reckless style of play that was prevalent in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, when clothesline and “missile” tackles were common practices, and wonder why today’s game should be played any differently.

What these critics fail to realize, however, is that while players have become bigger, faster, and stronger through the years, their brains have not. New helmet technologies are being developed all the time, but it seems that the force of the hits has outpaced the ability of helmets to absorb them.

Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon, explained the potential risks that come with multiple concussive blows to the head in his testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in October 2009.

“There is no doubt that these [concussions] do lead to an incurable neurodegenerative brain disease called CTE which causes serious progressive impairments in cognition, emotion, and behavioral control, and eventual full-blown dementia,” he said.

But even if players know all of the dangers, there is still one obstacle that keeps these new rules from being effective: the possibility of a replacement taking the starting job. How can you expect a player to risk losing millions of dollars and years of training by admitting he might have a concussion?

You can’t, which is why the commissioner’s efforts will likely be futile. Research shows that after one concussion, people are more susceptible to second and third concussions, increasing the likelihood of developing CTE.

By enforcing rules that essentially “punish” players for admitting they might have a concussion, the league is actually perpetuating the problem.

The challenge is to prevent concussions from happening in the first place. If the results of these scientific studies are true, it seems that the only way to do that is to drastically alter the nature of the game. After all, we are talking about sacrificing a human’s health for the sake of entertainment.

The question is: How much restraint is too much when taking the league’s bottom line into account? At what point does the commissioner say that someone’s quality of life is not worth “x” amount of dollars lost? It’s obvious that if he makes the game “too safe,” people will stop watching.

All this, of course, can be said only under the assumption that we will never see a “safe” helmet. Until that happens though, I think I’d take a pass on becoming the next NFL commissioner.

Cullen Wheatley is a Saints fan. He can be reached at

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