Go to your office, pick up your laptop and then drop it on the
ground. Start it up and see how it works. If it still works, do it again, only
with more force. Repeat for several hours and see what happens.
Chances are, no matter how good your computer is, how well
it is insulated or how resistant it is to shock, eventually this think is going
on the fritz.
The sad thing is, you wouldn’t think of doing this. You know
better. With that in mind, it’s amazing that the National Football League is
still doing its “We’re not entirely sure that the impact of repeated blows to
the head have caused a rate of dementia three times that of normal men.”
The NFL, the players union and other folks found themselves
in front of a congressional committee the other day, trying to explain how it
is that guys like John Mackey, a Hall-of-Fame tight end who was once as loquacious
as Deion Sanders, are virtually catatonic. The answer they seemed to be giving
is “We’re working on it.”
This doesn’t help the John Mackeys of the world, who find
themselves in assisted living due to the punishment they’ve received over the
years. This doesn’t help the guys like Mike Webster, the Hall-of-Fame center
from Pittsburgh who spent much of the end of his truncated life sleeping under
bridges because his brain was too damaged to function.
It also won’t do much good for guys like Brian Westbrook,
who was knocked out of Monday night’s game after taking a knee to the head.
He’s expected to play this weekend, even though he was diagnosed with a
concussion. It takes upwards of six weeks for nerve cells to start to stabilize
according to expert testimony at the hearing. Westbrook will be back in six
days. It won’t help the kids in college who are taught to tough it out or the
high school kids who don’t want to be viewed as a wuss for taking a week or two
off after a head injury. After all, if you can’t see the wound, if the bone
isn’t sticking through the skin, apparently, it’s not a big deal. Tough it out.
The brain is more fragile than most computers. It’s so
complex that we barely understand half of its inner workings. When it breaks,
we can’t really get at it without massive surgery. When it is hurt, we often
don’t know how to fix it or have ways to heal it.
In one way, it’s very clearly not like a computer: you can’t
just get replacement parts to fix it. The NFL needs to recognize that and give
players a better line than “we’re working on it.”