Kampman knows his limits
If he learned anything after playing through a concussion, it’s that a cautious approach is the best one to head injuries.
“The great thing about the medical staff here is they’re always going to err on the side of making sure the player is taken care of,” Kampman said. “You hear horror stories of guys being thrust out there, and that’s not the case here.”
Kampman is back at practice this week after sustaining a concussion on the fourth play of the game in a Nov. 8 loss at Tampa Bay. The outside linebacker played into the fourth quarter before realizing he had a significant injury and telling his coaches, who took him out.
The Packers held Kampman out of practice all last week and through Sunday’s victory over Dallas, the first time he has missed a game for health reasons since 2003. While Kampman says it was tough to stay on the sidelines instead of playing in the Packers’ biggest victory of the season, he appreciates the team’s cautious approach.
And while Kampman has been open with reporters about his injury and recovery—a sign, perhaps, of increased awareness about the dangers of head injuries in football—he hopes he never has to stand in front of his locker and talk about concussions again.
“Hopefully, this is the last time we have to talk about this,” Kampman said.
But it won’t be the last time the Packers deal with the aftermath of a head injury—not even this week.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that center Scott Wells missed practice after reporting concussion-like symptoms Wednesday.
“He had some symptoms in regards to a concussion that was reported to the medical staff yesterday,” McCarthy said. “So we’re obviously being smart with him.”
And Kampman’s backup, Brad Jones, was limited in practice Wednesday because of a concussion. He was listed as a full participant in Thursday’s practice.
Head injuries are becoming a major issue around the league, fueled in part by a recent study conducted for the NFL that found retired professional football players may have a higher rate than normal of Alzheimer’s disease or other memory problems.
The concern has filtered down to today’s players.
According to a survey of 160 NFL players conducted by The Associated Press from Nov. 2-15, 30 replied that they have hidden or played down the effects of a concussion. Half said they’ve had at least one concussion playing football; 61 said they missed playing time because of the injury.
Kampman said the team’s medical staff doesn’t need to worry about him hiding a concussion.
“I don’t take that approach,” Kampman said. “I wouldn’t have tried to say I was ready to go if I (wasn’t).”
Amid increasing scrutiny of the NFL’s policies on concussions, Kampman has gone out of his way to absolve the Packers’ coaches and medical staff of any responsibility for him playing with a concussion at Tampa.
Kampman said it’s a player’s responsibility to tell coaches when he’s hurt, but acknowledged that can be difficult for the player to figure out when he isn’t thinking clearly.
McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers said last week that they didn’t know anything was wrong with Kampman until he told someone.
“We all understand the priority of player safety, and once again, that is at the forefront of all these medical decisions,” McCarthy said last week. “But it’s also the game of football. When you’re dealing with head injuries, it’s hard to decipher sometimes—did you get dinged or do you have a concussion? There’s lines in everything in life, and no different with levels of injuries.”
McCarthy said Kampman was taken out of the game immediately after it became clear that something was wrong.
Kampman was given medical clearance Monday and was able to resume lifting weights, then returned to practice Wednesday. And while Kampman said it felt strange to sit out Sunday’s game, a few fans didn’t seem to notice he was missing.
“So I’m driving out of the stadium, people are like, ‘Great game, Aaron! Great game!”‘ Kampman said, laughing.