Weather Updates

Ex-Bear Becker favors concussion legislation

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Growing up on the East Side of Aurora, Kurt Becker knew there were dangers associated with his favorite contact sport, football.

“There’s inherent risk when you play the game, and that’s why it’s not for everybody,” said the former offensive lineman who starred at the University of Michigan and was a member of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears.

What Becker didn’t know during his Tomcat playing days, though, was that multiple hits to the head could have long-term health effects.

That’s part of the reason he traveled to Springfield today to testify in favor of legislation sponsored by House Minority leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) that will promote concussion education for teens and their parents, help regulate such injuries and, hopefully, continue to raise awareness.

Attention garnered this past week by the suicide of Becker’s former teammate, Dave Duerson, served as another grim reminder for the former pro player.

“Every day, it seems, there’s more information coming out (about head injuries in football),” Becker said, pointing out Duerson’s request to family members that his brain be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. “This CTE is a brain disorder caused by repeated injuries to the brain. Unfortunately, you can’t diagnose it until after the person dies and you do a biopsy of the brain (tissue).”

Becker considers himself fortunate to have moved on from football to have a successful business career, but he returned to the game four years ago to help coach at Marmion Academy, where his son plays high school football. He thinks the Cross legislation would be a good step in “establishing a protocol” in dealing with head injuries at the high school level.

“Back in the 70s and 80s, when you got diagnosed with a concussion, it was because you literally got knocked out and got violently ill. You lost time, space and place and there were headaches involved,” Becker said of what are now known as the severest degrees of concussions.

He said he was never knocked out on the field, but doesn’t doubt he suffered concussions of varying degrees.

“Being a lineman, you hit on every play. Today, you get what we used to call ‘your bell rung’ and see the tweedy birds (or stars), that’s a form of concussion. In my day, they’d snap an ammonia capsule under your nose and you’d get back in there.”

Tweaking rules by requiring longer healing time and improving coaching methods can also help, said Becker, who believes linemen should learn to “block with their body and shoulders and leave their head out of it.”

The same, he said, should go for tackling.

“When guys go for the legs, their heads are vulnerable to getting hit by a knee,” he said. “Nobody body tackles anymore and that’s something that needs to be looked at.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.