Concussions, Al Horford's brain, and the Celts' future: some perspective

A lot of you are starting to worry about Al Horford. You should.

Before we all lose our collective minds, let me also say we should also be thankful. Thankful he was able to practice with the team last night before the Dallas Mavericks game. Thankful we have a careful medical crew working with the team in a league that treats brain injuries with something approaching the concern they deserve.

That’s right, I said it - brain injuries.

Concussions aren’t just a knock to the dome you can brush off and keep playing through. They are literally brain injuries, and serious ones at that. They can change you forever, affecting balance, hearing, sight, mood, pain - the list is truly the stuff of nightmares.

They can end careers. They can kill you.

In the NBA, there have been mercifully few concussions of such a magnitude, but in other sports where collisions are more common, the list is very long indeed of individuals who never played the same - or at all - again as a result of their injuries. In the NHL, Boston fans may well remember the Bruins' Marc Savard, and Dean Chynoweth, too. On other squads, players like Pat LaFontaine, Eric Lindros, Steve Moore (yes, he broke his neck, but it was the concussion that kept him from coming back), Scott Stevens, Adam Deadmarsh, Matthew Barnaby, Keith Primeau, and many others saw their careers seriously shortened or ended by concussions.

In football, it’s even more of a problem.

The negative attention that league has received is deserved, with an institutionalized disregard for player health so severe it not only ended up becoming the subject of a popular movie, but threatens the sport’s future as it is currently played not only at the pro level, but at ALL levels. The NBA’s arguably best player, LeBron James, won’t even let his own kids play it out of concern for their well-being.

You don’t mess around with the brain.

To do otherwise isn’t “earning your keep”, “playing through injury”, or “being a man” - it’s being a moron. Brain injuries are unpredictable, under-researched, and extremely dangerous. You can wind up not only unable to play again, but also with a quality of life hardly - or not - worth living. And the less care you take, and the more often you get hurt, the greater your chances are for ending up permanently affected.

Sometimes, it’s just once.

So to those of you clamoring for Horford to “man up” - rest assured, he is; he’s taking the greatest care possible with the best the league has to offer to get himself ready to earn his keep by being able to play healthy, and make that contract worth the paper it was printed on. Anything less than exactly what he has been doing would not only be irresponsible to the team and to himself, it would be stupid and needlessly risky.

Get well soon, Al - we need you back - but not one second before you’re ready.

Horford photo via
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn