Brendon LaBatte is not giving up on his passion.
The Roughriders offensive lineman said his love of football will keep him in the game for as long as he can play it, despite new research that showed 99 per cent of the studied brains of NFLers came back with CTE.
“I don’t really worry about it too much right now,” LaBatte admitted after practice on Wednesday afternoon. “This is what I’ve been doing, this is what I love to do, this is a passion of mine so I’m not about to just put everything on hold and want to go live in bubble wrap in the hope that I live to be 75 or 80 years old.”
LaBatte said the results from the study are “alarming” but he always knew the risks of playing contact sports.
“If you want to play high impact athletics, it’s something you can’t be naive and ignorant to think it doesn’t exist, but it’s something you thought through in your head and you know the possible repercussions of going and there and you’ve got to be at peace with them,” he explained.
His sentiments were echoed by teammate and fellow lineman Peter Dyakowski. Dyakowski said it was something that he’s concerned about and that all players take precautions to prevent injuries.
“There’s a risk in the sport, but there’s a risk in a lot of activities. It’s not something that I necessarily dwell on. Is it something I may be concerned with post-football? Possibly,” he said.
Dyakowski said one thing that gives him peace of mind is the continued improvement the league has made in its concussion policies and protocols including an injury spotter, having specific benchmarks to be met when players have been concussed before they can return to the game and more regulations on contact during practices and training camp.
“There’s still a lot of improvement to make the general environment a bit less dangerous, but the game itself, the way it’s played today there is still apparently some risk and potentially some long term risk,” he said. “It’s a complicated medical issue.”
Both players said they would be okay with their kids suiting up to play football if that was something they wanted to do. Dyakowski said that having his daughter – who is still an infant – or any of his future children active instead of staying inside all the time important to him.
“I think there’s serious health risks to not being active and if the choice is between playing a sport like football or hockey or soccer … or staying indoors all day playing video games, I think that’s an easy decision from my standpoint,” he said.
“I wouldn’t push them,” LaBatte said of his kids. “There’s a real chance you’re going to be in pain at some point out there. If he’s prepared and he wants to go through with that then definitely I’d let him play, I’d encourage him and help him in every way I could.”
But he added he wouldn’t want his son to just play it because all of his friends did. He would want him to really want it for himself.
“There’s a lot of personal risk that you’re taking so I think you’ve got to be really committed to it,” LaBatte said.
“If it’s something you’re not personally comfortable with, you’re best just to stay out.”