We should be scared straight by the growing volume of concussion horror stories
OPINION: Living in America in the late 1970s for a year, the documentary of the time that attracted most comment was called Scared Straight.
It was a social program working with juveniles who had come to the attention of the criminal justice system, and the idea was to take them to prison for a day, have them look at life there and talk with hardcore prisoners about the daily grind.
Now, Sonny Jim, do you still want to steal cars, deal drugs, commit petty assaults? Because this is where you're heading if you keep going on the path you're on. Or are you now scared straight?
Tom Brady's wife Gisele Bundchen reveals the NFL star had a concussion in 2016.
I am not sure what it did to them, but it terrified me and the worst crime I had engaged in at that point was littering.
The climactic moment came when the cameras panned to the one youth who, nearing the end of the visit, still retained some sass, some insolence in his bearing, demonstrating that he was not cowed.
Cue the largest, hardest, meanest prisoner of the lot, walking up to him, bringing his face within two centimetres and purring that in this prison they liked "purty" boys like him, so he'd fit right in. Bringing his face one centimetre closer still, he snarls, "I could bite your nose off and spit it in your face, before the guards could get to me".
All the sass went, all the insolence drained.
I don't advocate it for Australia, but I'd love to see the principle applied to concussion. This week, the supermodel wife of 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, was being interviewed on television and noted in passing: "He had a concussion last year. He has concussions pretty much every ... I mean, we don't talk about it. But he does have concussions. I don't really think it's a healthy thing for anybody to go through."
Tom? Do what I did. Go to Richmond, Virginia. Look up, John Hilton, the hardest, meanest linebacker of the lot, with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the early 70s. And see what is left of him now, after all those concussions took their toll. And Ms Bundchen? You go, too. And talk to Hilton's wife, about what it was like when, in his mid-50s his behaviour became erratic, his temper uncharacteristically violent, his ability to function fading with every year, until he got to the human wreck you will see before you.
Perhaps you could both go and see the widow of Ray Easterling, Mary-Anne. Ray was one of hundreds of NFL players who have taken their lives. She doesn't live far away. Talk to her about what her life was like with him, and since.
In fact, there is a whole community of NFL wrecks, and their long-suffering wives, or widows, in the area – drawn there by the brain health specialists who congregate in that city. Talk to any of them, and ask them if the glory years they knew, make up for their endless sufferings now.
And then, Tom, see if you really want to continue getting regular concussions into your 40s. If you're not scared straight, you bloody well should be.
- Sydney Morning Herald