Denver Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson injured his right ankle on the first defensive play of last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers. Rather than come out of the game to receive treatment and avoid injuring the ankle further, he decided to “man up” and keep playing. He finished the game but when the Broncos medical staff evaluated him it was determined that he had seriously injured the ankle and would be facing an 8-to-10-week recovery. He was placed on the injured reserve list and is out for the season.

His coach, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, had this reaction: “I was proud of the way he gutted it out. Obviously, he had a significant injury. The fact he was able to battle through and be able to be on the field says a lot about his character.”

Allen didn’t say anything about the possibility that playing the entire game on an ankle that was injured on the first play might have made the injury worse and cost him the rest of the season. Who knows, Vickerson might have caused long-term damage that could negatively impact the rest of his career. All because the macho culture of the NFL — and make no mistake about it this same culture exists all the way down to the youth level — encouraged him to “suck it up” and “tough it out.”

It’s that same macho mindset that has resulted in long-term brain damage to football players who get their “bell rung” (read: concussion) and then are pushed back into the game prematurely by coaches, fellow teammates, and even trainers.

It’s that mindset that needs to change.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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