Cris Collinsworth Says ‘League of Denial’ Won’t Stop His Kids From Playing Football

TCA 2014: “The most important thing in the world for most people is to learn how to get knocked on your ass and get back up and start fighting again.”

Days after a judge approved a settlement in which the National Football League will pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to players with concussion-related health claims, NBC analyst and former NFL player Cris Collinsworth said he doesn’t hesitate to let his two sons play the game.

Collinsworth was asked at a “Sunday Night Football” panel Monday to comment on PBS’ 2013 “Frontline” special “League of Denial,” which detailed how players suffer brain disorders, including dementia, after years of gridiron collisions. One of his sons played in high school, and the other — Austin Collinsworth — plays at Notre Dame.

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“My wife and I have had this discussion,” Collinsworth said. “We watched ‘League of Denial.’ I’ve read ad nausea. I know a lot about what’s going on with this subject. But you want to really know what I think? I think the most important thing in the world for most people is to learn how to get knocked on your ass and get back up and start fighting again. And I think it happens to all of us in all walks of life and football is a pretty neat way of telling you how to do that.”

“League of Denial” doesn’t focus on injuries sustained from being “knocked on your ass,” but rather on repeated, traumatic brain damage. A neuropsychologist in the special said a season of hits is equivalent to “driving a car at 35 miles per hour into a brick wall 1,000 to 1,500 times per year.”

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In a follow-up with Collinsworth, TheWrap asked if he was downplaying the seriousness of the problem by likening football injuries to getting “knocked on your ass.”

“Have you watched soccer? Have you watched hockey? All these sports — I mean soccer, I saw some horrific blows to the head yesterday,” he said, referring to the World Cup Final. “If you talk to physicians, they’ll tell you that they may be even more at risk. There’s a theory in the law [about] assumption of the risk. Are you willing to assume the risk to play hockey, to play football, to tackle, to do whatever it is — MMA? There are people that are going to choose to do that.”

The NFL is the only sports league that has agreed to a settlement in the hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate players making concussion-related claims. The league agreed to lift a $675 million cap on damages to cover all the cases.

Is that a sign that football poses a greater risk?

“I would question that,” Collinsworth told TheWrap. “There’s more people.”

He added that he agreed the settlement money should be made available.

The concussion issue doesn’t just involve adult players who choose to assume the risk, but also children who aspire to grow up to play pro.

The question about Collinsworth’s sons sprung from comments by NFL Hall of Famer Harry Carson on “League of Denial.” Carson said that for many years, players didn’t realize the danger of concussions.

“From a physical risk standpoint, you know what you are doing when you sign your kid up, that he can hurt his knee, OK?” Carson said on the special. “But what you should know now is your child could develop a brain injury as a result of playing football. It’s not just on the pro level, it’s on every level of football. The question is, do you want it to be your child?”

Collinsworth and other panelists said the league was doing its best to minimize risks to players. They also said there would always be enough kids who want to play football to keep the league going for decades.

You can watch “League of Denial” here.