A few years back I had the pleasure of working with Hall of Fame offensive lineman Forrest Gregg on his autobiography. A prince of a gentleman, who, then in his 70s, was no longer the snarling head coach prowling the sidelines, as many of us remember him from our childhood. He was kind and soft-spoken with a clever wit.
During his playing days, he wore the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers, playing for legendary coach Vince Lombardi. When I asked him questions about stories he’d written in the book, he sometimes had to stop and think for a bit, and would offer a sly and self-effacing reply like, “I can’t quite remember. I got banged on the head a lot while I was playing.” And we’d laugh.
Football during the era he played was a brutal game, in part because so many injuries weren’t treated properly, especially head trauma. We’re not laughing anymore. Things have changed for players today as we’ve learned more about the serious effects of concussions. This week the State of Wisconsin took a stand by passing a bill that supplies guidelines for how a kid who “gets his bell rung” needs to be treated. It outlines what a coach and parents need to do to ensure the player’s safety.
Given my experience with Forrest, I found it somewhat ironic that Wisconsin’s governor signed the bill while standing at Lambeau Field, where the Packers have played for decades and where Forrest no doubt got his bell rung a few times. The famous “frozen tundra” at Lambeau probably would deliver a hard whack when a player was forced to the ground.
It’s good to see that states are taking the situation seriously. As we learn more about the affects of head trauma and how to diagnose and treat these injuries, our kids will be better protected. And when they get to be Forrest Gregg’s age they’ll remember more about their playing days.