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Ricky Williams dismisses concussion data in favor of ‘mind over matter’ approach

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Ricky Williams eludes the Lions in 2010. (Getty Images)

Sometimes, the best way to deal with a problem is to pretend that it doesn't exist. At least, that's the impression put across by former NFL running back Ricky Williams when he discussed the recent concern about concussions in football with ESPN's Dan Le Batard. Williams, who played for the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens during an 11-year career in which he gained over 10,000 rushing yards, retired in February. And when it comes to the possible effects of the game as he enters a new phase of his life ... well, Williams can't really be bothered.

"I have no idea, and I'm not a really big fan of the way the NFL is handling concussions," Williams said on Tuesday. "Maybe I'm stupid or whatever, but if I got a concussion, and I could see straight and I could carry a football, I'm not telling anybody ... From what I've seen, [the NFL is] all about prevention -- but can you prevent a concussion? I mean, you can definitely have safer helmets, and I had what I think was the safest helmet when I played, and I think you can definitely pay more attention. But ultimately, it's about the players. And I think all this attention given to prevention -- it seems like they haven't done anything, because they don't believe they can actually treat a concussion."

[Related: Concussion worries lead Andrew Sweat to choose law school over NFL]

When Le Batard said that he didn't understand Williams' statement (put us in that camp as well), Williams elaborated.

"Most of the research around concussions is to find that 100 percent of football players have brain trauma. Well -- I don't want someone to tell me that, right? I don't want someone to tell me that, because if it's a 'doctor' [Williams used air quotes when he said the word 'doctor'], I don't buy it."

The now incredulous Le Batard asked Williams to clarify his stance -- did he believe that there is not a link between football and concussions?

"I don't buy it. I'm only speaking from my personal experience, because I haven't allowed myself to buy it, and I haven't been affected. Yes, I'm aware that football is a rough sport, but instead of saying, 'Oh -- I'm doomed to brain trauma,' I said, 'What can I do about it?' And I just started taking care of my body. I found people, places and things that really helped me -- again, I don't know what's going to happen to me in 10 years, but I look at the other things I've learned about, and the way I see the world.

"And to me, it's like -- OK, yes. If we're going to spend six months brutalizing our bodies, I said, 'That makes sense. I'm going to spend six months taking care of my body.' I started to equip myself with tools. I started practicing yoga, and I started learning some hands-on healing stuff. I found really good chiropractors and massage therapists, and I found that I was able to peel off layers of trauma on my body. I actually move better now than I did [when I played]."

When asked about the science of brain trauma, Williams passed it off. "Science is the deity, but should it be?"

I'm not about to tell Ricky Williams how to deal with the effects of football -- he's certainly taken many more violent hits than I have, and he appears to be none the worse for wear. I'm also in the camp that believes in the positive effects of a holistic approach. The "mind over matter" stuff works to a degree, and maybe Williams is just on a higher plane with it. And if it allows him to bypass the sometimes horrific results that happen when you bang your helmeted head into another helmeted head ... well, good for him.

I just hope he isn't on the outside looking in from a medical perspective when he's 44 years old instead of the 34 he is now.

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