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Jay Cutler Should Consider Retiring

How many concussions is enough?

Jay Cutler has had at least six of them, according to reports. Which means he's probably had at least 12 of them.

Concussions are brain injuries.

Jay Cutler has had at least 12 brain injuries.

And as The Score's Dan Bernstein has frequently pointed out, the real danger to athletes isn't the concussions per se but the steady pounding of non-concussive hits.

Welcome to early onset dementia, Jay.

Jim McMahon has your room ready.

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Lovie Smith pledged Monday - like all coaches do - to put the health of his players first.

Right.

"Whatever the symptoms are for a concussion, that's what he had," the caring coach also said. "I try not to be Dr. Smith."

Maybe you should. I mean, if you really care.

"The NFL's concussion protocol is laughable," former NFL player and current Tribune columnist Matt Bowen writes. "It's a guessing game in which team trainers and doctors roll the dice on head injuries."

Sometimes - if not all the time given the financial stakes - they roll wrong.

The parasites aren't in the brain but in the system.

"It's a football game," Bowen said on Chicago Tribune Live last night. "It's time we started treating these people like humans; they are not gladiators."

True, the financial rewards of the game make it a business. A big business. And in turn, players are sold as - and encouraged to become - gladiators that exemplify mythological qualities (like "toughness") that somehow satisfy the emotional needs of the worst, most zealous fans out there. Like fast food chain operators ever perfecting their ways of seduction in the nation's poorest neighborhoods, or strip clubs and casinos ever sharpening their appeals to the world's most formidable temptations, these vulnerable needy bastards are exploited by a wealthy elite who in turn chastise their lack of character. That could be tamped down if people would grow the fuck up.

"If the NFL truly wanted its teams to show America they take concussion awareness seriously, then the marquee Bears-49ers Monday Night Football game would pit backup Jason Campbell vs. backup Colin Kaepernick," David Haugh writes in the Tribune.

Would that be okay with everyone? Because it should.

(It's not just football in America with this problem, by the way; see what happened to Calgary's quarterback on Sunday.)

Every player who suffers from multiple concussions is different, but still instructive. For example, the Lions' Jahvid Best suffered his second (official) concussion last season and still hasn't returned. The Bears' Hunter Hillenmeyer never returned after his third (official) concussion. We all know what happened to Junior Seau.

And it's not just football. The NHL's best player, Sidney Crosby, has unsuccessfully tried to return from multiple concussions. The league's best player. (Hardly a new problem for pro hockey, either.)

An MLB MVP who fears concussions will end his career has also struggled, though Justin Morneau managed to finish last season seemingly without complications after a slow start.

And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, "female soccer players are second only to football players in the number of concussions they report," CNN notes. And that's only because female soccer players report their concussions more often than male soccer players, according to a study last month in the Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics.

(Self-reporting is a widespread problem; see Steelers' Polamalu Admits To Concealing Concussions.)

When it comes to the Bears, it's not just Cutler whose medical history should now cause profound worry.

"Phil Emery stated that the Bears were going to avoid players with an injury history," Brett Solesky wrote for Midway Illustrated last April.

"The Bears however drafted a player with an injury risk that automatically puts up a red flag as having injury concerns. Shea McClellin the DE from Boise State suffered two concussions while playing for the Broncos. The first he suffered in 2009 and then a second one he suffered in 2010."

Despite McClellin's protestations to Solesky in an e-mail that he only suffered a single "mild" concussion in college and hadn't had any problems since he changed helmets, reports about McClellin's concussion on Sunday included an admission by him that he had at least one "serious" concussion in college as well.

Some players stop there. Last month, Illinois lineman Ryan Klachko quit after suffering too many concussions in practice.

And some players will make the choice to risk their future brains to keep playing a game they love - or to at least keep getting paid.

But it's not just about them; it's about the example they set. And it's about fans, media and business owners who get off on that example, one way or another.

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Comments welcome.

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