by Jack Bechta
December 26, 02013
In speaking to an NFL doctor earlier this week about my client, he reminded me that many of the players he sees coming out of college are already “damaged goods”. He told me that many of the players he sees at the Combine should have gotten knee scopes immediately after their regular senior season. Others could have used some minor shoulder surgery to repair partially torn labrums, or have floating bone chips removed from their elbows.
Playing major college football takes a toll on a young mans’ body and the process of the degenerative breakdown of the joints occurs prematurely. And of course, that simply comes with the territory.
But what doesn’t come with the territory is the proactive care of the college player as he exits the college door.
In the NFL, players get an exit physical at the end of each season. Any injuries that have accumulated are usually documented, examined (x-rays, MRIs, scans) and scheduled for immediate repair. College football should have a similar protocol for its players at the end of each season. Dr. David Chao, who has been examining players at the Combine for 17 years, also told me that he’s “seen players yearly that should have gotten surgery prior to the Combine”.
I represent 4 to 5 new clients each year, and usually a few of them have something that should/could have been fixed. However, the current mindset and system discourages it.
The conundrum for the players entering the draft is that if they get a scope or any type of surgery immediately following the season, they may miss an all-star game, the Combine and maybe their individual school pro days. So for them, they usually can’t address any issues until after their rookie NFL season is completed. It’s like they are dammed if they do (surgery could cost them draft slots) and dammed if they don’t (not doing surgery can speed up the degeneration and the player has to endure the pain during his rookie year).
This whole mindset and cycle has to change. It should first start with the NFL letting the draftees know that it’s okay to get fixed immediately after the college season. Having the draft now moved back to May 8-10, players will have even more time to heal. And teams will have more time to evaluate their health.
The bottom line is that players are under such great pressure to test and compete after their senior, or junior year, that they compromise their long term health and even shorten their NFL careers. The time between a player’s last college game and the draft continues to put stress on a player’s body that is unnecessary.
For starters, colleges have to have a better protocol for creating base lines for their players. College players should be more closely evaluated 2x per year throughout their career. Coaches shouldn’t put pressure on injured players to play if it will affect their long-term health. The current atmosphere of sacrificing your body for the team has to be better managed. Players should be able to take care of their body without fear of an intangible retribution, which unfortunately still occurs.
It should be an acceptable practice by players to get anything they need fixed immediately after their regular college season. And also be able to choose their own doctors to do so.
I would also move the Combine back a few weeks to give college players more time to rehab and or prepare. Since the draft was moved back this makes more sense.
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