Will the Jets let Erik Coleman play?

Safety Eric Coleman suffered a concussion two weeks ago during the Jets 17-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

At what point the injury occurred remains a mystery, as according to the team, Coleman didn't feel the effects of the concussion until after the game was over.

Being as the Jets policy toward injuries is to stay mum, we can only speculate on whether or not Coleman's symptoms did in fact manifest themselves after the game, or if they instead arrived during, and he opted to wait before informing the team of his symptoms.

If Coleman did wait to make his ailments known, he wouldn't be the first NFL player to do so.

Professional football has bred a culture that frowns upon injury, especially an injury that can't be seen.

Yet, with the number of documented cases of post-concussion syndrome at an all-time high, at what point should the decision be taken away from the player?

In the earlier days of football, concussion went largely untreated. "Getting your bell rung" was accepted as a normal cost of playing the game. As the sport has evolved, so to has the league's stance toward concussions. Yet, it is probably still far from where it needs to be in order to best serve its players post-football interests.

The Jets don't need to look far to find an example of just how devastating the ramifications of post-concussion syndrome can be. One of the most celebrated players in organization history, Wayne Chrebet, battles with the lingering effects of his head injuries on a daily basis.

"Sometimes, you don't want to get out of bed," Chrebet said of the daily struggles he now lives with. "Some days are worse than others. You just hope for the good days."

Deemed the "silent epidemic" for its lack of tangible signs, the lingering effects of concussions are all too real. Depression, anxiety, dizziness and amnesia are just a few of the symptoms credited to post-concussion syndrome. Symptoms that can be avoided if the injury is properly treated. To date, the best-known treatment for a concussion is time. Sufficient time away from the game, in order to allow the brain to heal, is critical in avoiding the long-term affects that players like Chrebet now suffer with.

Chrebet's struggles, sadly, are not aberration. The list of former NFL players living with the effects of post-concussion syndrome is long and distinguished. Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Merril Hodge are just a few names of men who credit the end of their careers to head injuries.

Truth be told, they are the lucky ones as the lingering effects of numerous concussions has rendered many former players unable to live normal lives.

In November 2006, a cloud of depression caused by the neurological damage he suffered on the football field, became too much for former Philadelphia Eagle Andre Waters' to deal with. A self-inflected gunshot wound ended his life.

The issue was further galvanized in February 2007 when former Patriot, Ted Johnson, pointed blame at Bill Belichick, for forcing him back into action too soon after the linebacker suffered a concussion in 2002. Johnson claims that Belichick's actions are partly to blame for the severe bout with depression he now battles.

As public interest has risen toward the effects of concussions, the league has acted accordingly. However, much of the policy remains in the hands of the individual team.

"There is protocol in place and we go through a series of tests on the sideline with the medical staff," Eric Mangini said of the team's current stance toward treating a player with a concussion. "Then the coaching staff goes through a series of tests based on the game plan, things like that, to make sure that, even if they're cleared medically, they completely understand what they're supposed to do in the game. There are different layers to guarantee that if someone has been cleared, he's gone through as much preparation or as much due diligence as possible."

An obvious problem with this rationale is that a player suffering from the effects of a concussion is usually not in the proper state of mind to accurately gauge his own well-being. Even after a significant period of time has elapsed, and a player feels to be completely healed, they rarely are. This is precisely why the organization should feel an obligation to take the decision out of the hands of the player.

Coleman returned to practice on a limited basis this week and is listed as questionable on the team's injury report. He acknowledged that the coaching staff would decide his availability for Sunday's game.

In lieu of the recent controversies surrounding the issue of concussions, it will be interesting to see if the team opts to ire on the side of caution and hold Coleman out for another week.


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