Ronnie Lott Talks Concussions at Santa Clara University Symposium

By Bob Redell
|  Thursday, Sep 12, 2013  |  Updated 12:40 PM PDT
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Hall of Famer and former 49er Ronnie Lott is speaking out about concussions in sports. Bob Redell reports.

Hall of Famer and former 49er Ronnie Lott is speaking out about concussions in sports. Bob Redell reports.

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NFL Hall of Famer and former 49er Ronnie Lott is speaking out about concussions in sports.

Thursday, the hard-hitting defender delivered the keynote address at a symposium at Santa Clara University’s Institute of Sports Law and Ethics.

The institute sponsored a symposium looking into head trauma in sports.  They've gathered all sorts of experts to see what can be done to minimize concussions, including one personally familiar with the issue: Ronnie Lott, who as part of his presentation demonstrated the crack-back tackle on an audience member.

It’s a maneuver Lott used often during his days at the Stick. Now it’s illegal in the NFL because it’s so dangerous.

Thursday morning, Lott recounted tales of fellow players paralyzed in the sport or dead at an early age because of brain injuries.

This symposium is timely, not only because of the start of football season, but also because late last month  the league agreed to pay $765 million to settle lawsuits with around 4,500 retired football players who sued the league for brain injuries and dementia caused during their careers on the gridiron. 

As a co-chair of the NFL Player Safety Advisory Panel, Lott has overseen changes to help make the sport safer.  But he says safety must not start at the professional level, rather at the bottom, in Pee Wee League. And not just in football, but all sports, like soccer and hockey.

Why does Lott think it’s taken so long to raise awareness surrounding concussions?

“I think what we’re seeing now is a movement…of change in our sport to understand that head injuries are not acceptable and that we have to find ways to enhance the way our kids are looked at in all sports,” Lott said.

If he had to do it all over again, Lott said, he would still hit as hard in the same “maniacal” way, only he’d be operating within the confines of today’s rules.

Even though he sustained about 20 concussions during his football career, Lott said he doesn’t suffer from dementia or any other brain disorders.

New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley will not play in the team's game at New England on Thursday night because of a concussion. He took a hard hit from Tampa Bay's Mark Barron late in the second quarter of New York's victory Sunday.

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