The worst among Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre's many concussions resulted from his head hitting the playing surface, and it was just such a blow — on Dec. 20, 2010 — that ended a career that spanned 20 NFL seasons and 321 consecutive starts. Now Favre wants players, parents and coaches at all levels to realize what he never did — that head-to-surface contact causes one out of every five sports concussions, and that something can be done about it. As an executive producer of "Shocked: The Hidden Factor in the Sports Concussion Crisis," which asserts that a shock pad helps synthetic turf more closely mimic the resiliency of natural grass, Favre told AB senior editor Paul Steinbach on the eve of the documentary's January debut that he believes such padding can greatly reduce the occurrence of concussions.
How many concussions have you experienced?
That's the thing. I think the general public has always thought a guy gets hit, he goes stiff, he's out cold — a boxer gets hit and he just falls straight on his face — we know that's a concussion. But there are many more examples of concussions where a person is still conscious but it's no less damaging than the knockout blow. How many of those have I had? Oh, my gosh. Too many to count. And that's scary.
Were you ever pressured to play with a concussion?
I never felt pressure from an organization to play, but there's no way I would come out of a game for a concussion. I thought when the headaches go away, the dizziness goes away, there's no more brain injury. Well, that's not true. It doesn't go away. Had I known that, I'm almost certain that I would have erred on the side of caution more times than not.
Does that kind of hindsight worry you?
The seriousness of concussions has gotten my attention and I think it's gotten the attention of former players, obviously, but even current players or players who have just retired early who would never have retired early in previous generations. You're seeing guys in their 20s, maybe in high school, choose to play something other than football, or their parents choosing to direct them in a totally different direction than football because of the seriousness of concussions. And that's not going away. So I look at it a lot differently now. I look at my health a lot differently now than I did at 25.
Why focus on the field?
There's no way you would let your child go out on the football field and play tackle football without a helmet. You wouldn't even consider that. But you would let your kid go out in a helmet and play on the hardest surface out there. You just don't think of the surface as a piece of equipment like a helmet or thigh pad or shoulder pads, but in reality it is. And I'll be honest with you, I never thought of it that way either. There is something out there that is safer, but we have to press the issue and ask questions about the surface.
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Brett Favre champions padded playing fields." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.