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Aikman praises NFL's new testing for concussions

6/6/2007 - NFL

NEW YORK -- Troy Aikman says he has no symptoms from his 10
concussions during his Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Defensive players, he thinks, are more at risk than quarterbacks.

Aikman does get migraine headaches. But he's had them all his
life and he says they're not related to football.

Last week, a study of more than 2,500 retired NFL players found
that those who had at least three concussions during their careers
had triple the risk of clinical depression as those who had none.

"I think people got the impression that Steve Young and I were
forced out by concussions. For me, it was more my back," said the
40-year-old Aikman who retired six years ago.

"I've had no problems since," he added, saying he hasn't
suffered from depression. "From my perspective, I think I got off
relatively lightly. I think defensive players are far more at risk
than quarterbacks -- they get hit on every play and may often have
concussions they don't know about."

Aikman said his migraines are triggered by cigarette smoke and
airline travel, which he does more now in his capacity as a
broadcaster than he did as a player.

He said his headaches were diagnosed as migraines only after he
consulted a doctor last year.

Aikman said that while migraines have been thought to affect
mostly women, studies show that seven million males -- 6 percent of
the population -- get them.

"I think a lot of men think they can tough it out," Aikman
said. "My advice to them is to see their doctors."

Aikman praised the NFL for its recent decision to run baseline
tests on all players in training camp so the league can later
determine if their brains have been damaged from hits to the head.

"The fact that doctors will now have a record of how much
change there has been is a huge step forward," he said.

Aikman's sentiments were echoed by Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy
during the Colts' workouts in Indianapolis.

"We certainly know a lot more now than we did 15 years ago,"
said Dungy, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s.

"In our case, the doctors have always had a say in when a guy
plays. When a guy gets here we do a baseline test and when a guy
gets a concussion, we do the same test again. He's not allowed to
play again until he scores in the same range and that's not how it
was when I played, but I think our players deserve that care."

One of those defensive players Aikman was discussing, Colts
safety Bob Sanders, said he often thinks about the long-term
effects.

"Your life is way more important; it goes beyond playing
football," said Sanders, known for his hard hits. "We live and
breathe playing football, but it isn't forever. That's why NFL
stands for Not For Long. It doesn't last forever."

"Once it's over and if you can't think or your mind is
affected, it can be devastating for some guys," he added. "They
can pay for it later, so you have to do what you can to get
educated and don't come back just so you can be out there. Don't
come back until you're clear."