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John York discusses concussions, recent 49ers retirements

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The San Francisco 49ers chairman John York serves as chairman of the NFL's health and safety advisory committee. He had a chance to weigh in on the concussion issue. We have a full transcript, but you can also listen HERE (at 50:45 mark).

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The BBC recently put together an hour long show in which they discussed the issue of concussions in sports. American football has been the most publicized sport when it comes to concussions, but soccer and rugby are two other sports that have seen greater discussion about the issue of concussions.

The program featured former NFL executive and agent Andrew Brandt and other individuals, but the most interesting for San Francisco 49ers fans would have to be team chairman John York. He shows up at the 50:45 mark, and I have transcribed his comments below. I did not hear the show live, but rather via this replay. He did an interview with another program, and it appears it was added into this program. There are moments where it sounds a little edited, but I am not certain about that.

He hit on NFL talking points, but his comments still came across a bit odd in certain respects. He is chairman of the NFL's Health & Safety Advisory Committee, and is a drastic improvement over the years when Paul Tagliabue's personal physician was addressing concussions in the NFL. That being said, York is a cancer pathologist, so for the purpose of concussions, there are still some limitations with him in the role.

I get that the NFL is still trying to cover their butt in certain respects, but a few of the comments were a bit odd. For example, York talked about how the issue of CTE was not on the radar five years ago, and there has been a significant increase in knowledge during that time. While it is true there was not much information, this was due in large part to the NFL trying to shut down some of the research in the past. The NFL has had to acknowledge it amidst the concussion lawsuits, but they are being dragged kicking and screaming on this issue. And given how much they are fighting certain aspects of the concussion lawsuit, I don't think enough has changed.

He later tries to focus the discussion on the idea that there is a disproportionate amount of hysteria given the number of people dealing with issues. I get the point he was trying to make, but this was very poorly worded considered we are taking about early onset Alzheimer's and dementia, as well as suicides by players who have reached a point where they think that is the best option to end the pain.

He then talked about the idea that more concussions are suffered by bicycle accidents, falling off horses, and slip and fall accidents. Add in his discussion about how there are so many other injury issues beyond brain trauma, and I am just left shaking my head. Feel free to give it a read.

On NFL response to CTE:

There's a real difference in the world and our knowledge in the last five years. You can argue whatever you want before five years ago, it just was not on the radar screen. There wasn't any research ... it wasn't on neurosurgery's or on neurology, and there's gotta be a time where it comes to a place where people pay more attention. That happened, and the NFL has responded and looked at it.

What I will say is, there are certainly people that have been injured with brain injuries, but the hysteria that is around this is out of proportion to the number of people that are hurt. There is a risk, in terms of injury. But there's a risk to our legs, our arms, our hands, our feet, and also our head. And we need to properly assess those risks, make sure that we make the thing as safe as possible. But we're not going to take concussions out of people slipping and falling, riding bicycles, riding a horse. All of those things occur as well.

But concussions are now initially aimed at football in America, and as you can see it's now spread to soccer and to rugby, and other sports. But most concussions are not in those sports. They're slip and falls, they're bicycle accidents, they're horses.

On recent retirements:

Shocked no, surprised yes. I think any time that you have sea change in awareness and available data, you are going to have people respond to that information in different ways. I think that Chris Borland saw that data and made a decision that even though he was a promising young player with a good career ahead of him, he decided that he would rather not take those risks, whether or not all those risks are totally founded, and take his talents to do something else, which we would support completely. Because he has the right and the ability to go and do something else. Anthony Davis, on the other hand, has been a player, a starter for a number of years for the 49ers. He suffered a concussion and Simon, I'm not positive of this, but I think  that was the first concussion that Anthony ever suffered. But he was out for several weeks, felt like he could return, he was cleared by all of the physicians. And he just did not feel right.

On Eric Reid comments:

Anytime that you give people knowledge and awareness, it is going to lead to discussion. We wouldn't be having this discussion on air about concussions ten years ago. There would be no interest ...

On where football will be in 20 years:

Football will be here, it will evolve, it will be exciting. There will be good competition and it will be safer.

On state of players in 20 years:

The players, if all are handled correctly, they will be in better shape than they are today.