by Ryan Krzykowski

Aside from the ice falling from the sky as I type this post, I love this time of year.  We enjoyed Christmas and the dawn of a new year, and now we settle back into the beautiful routine and rhythm of everyday life.  It is glorious.

In addition to our return to calendar normalcy, another feature that makes January a special month is the blessing of three weekends of NFL playoffs.  Here in Kansas City, we are fortunate to have a team that provides energy and a sense of civic pride for our entire city.  We all get to enjoy the experience of gathering with family and friends and watching the games.  It’s really a lot of fun.  And personally, I will spend a little time during the week looking for information or stories that fill in the gap between playoff weekends.  A few days ago I came across this headline:

NFL doctor: Carson Wentz ‘heroic’ for reporting concussion

The headline was linked to this article on NFL.com, and if I’m honest, I brought mixed feelings into my reading of the story.  For anyone who missed it, early in his team’s first round playoff game, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz reported concussion-like symptoms to medical personnel after taking a hit to the back of the helmet.  Wentz did not reenter the game, and his team was eliminated by Seattle.  By mixed feelings, I mean that I know that if I’d watched that game 20 years ago, I would have felt that Wentz let his team down.  Their best chance to win is to have him on the field, and his teammates were counting on him.  Self-reporting his injuries likely cost the Eagles the game.  That’s 100% what I would have thought a couple decades back.

Even now, while our collective awareness of the seriousness of concussions has come a long way, a small part of me still wondered if Wentz should have given it a go and been there for his team.  We don’t take chances, we tell kids to report headaches and whatnot, but come on, this is the NFL playoffs.  Isn’t it worth it to push through and perform?  Isn’t that what a leader and great teammate does?

No, it isn’t.  There are millions of young people out there playing sports, and I know that for all the talking adults do about head injuries and self-reporting, a significant percentage of our kids feel guilty about taking themselves out of competition.  Or they look at their teammates who are out with a concussion and wonder about their level of commitment.  As coaches we have to help our players get past that mentality, and the example of Carson Wentz is one I plan to share with teams in the future.

In the article linked above, the chief medical officer of the NFL, Dr. Allen Sills is quoted:

“I think what Carson Wentz did is heroic and should be highlighted as an example of how an unbelievably skilled and competitive athlete understands the seriousness of concussion injury and is willing to honestly report it and receive the care that he needs independent of his desire and drive to continue to participate in the game.  Having a concussion and playing through it is not about toughness. That’s demonstrating a lack of understanding of the severity of the injury. So I applaud Carson Wentz for understanding how serious this injury is and for getting appropriate care that he needs.”

On top of that, it was encouraging to read about Wentz’s teammates offering their support as he apparently went to each of them after the game and apologized for being injured and coming out of the game.  They understood how badly he wanted to be out there and how it broke him to be on the sideline.

As our young people are being educated about the topic of head injuries and concussions, what about sharing the heroic example of Carson Wentz and making it clear that “having a concussion and playing through it is not about toughness”?  That when we tell players that their brains are more important than the outcome of a game, we actually mean it.

Let’s Coach With Purpose.