Jean-Philippe Darche knows all about the football’s concussion debate.
He played professionally for nine seasons â€” including the final eight in the NFL with Seattle and Kansas City. After retiring in ’09, Darche returned to school, continuing his studies at the University of Kansas school of medicine.
Darche is scheduled to complete a family medicine residency in Kansas City this summer with plans to do a sports medicine-only fellowship afterwards. Even with such an extensive medical background, the 41-year-old native of St. Laurent, Que., is good with his sons Justin, 14, and Zach, 11, playing football.
“I’ve been asked that many times and have thought about it a lot,” he said. “I’ve read up all the evidence and looked at it and kind of pulled back and asked, ‘Should I let them play?’
“I, with a lot of confidence, say yes, I’m happy they’re playing.”
The subject of concussions in football â€” and the potential damage they can cause â€” has been a hot-button topic in recent years. Last March, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s top health and safety officer, acknowledged a link between football-related head trauma and brain disease.
It marked the first time a senior league official conceded football’s connection to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). A month later, a U.S. federal judge gave final approval to a US$1-billion class-action lawsuit settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players.
Darche played football at McGill, graduating in 1998 with a science degree in physiology. He put his medical-school aspirations on hold in ’99 after being drafted by the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts as a long-snapper.
Darche joined the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks in 2000 before heading to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007. After spending most of the ’08 campaign on injured reserve, Darche retired and resumed his studies full-time.
Darche earned his medical degree in 2014, one of only three in his class to graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
Darche admits he suffered “a few” concussions playing football but said the information that exists now regarding head trauma wasn’t readily available during his earlier years in the game.
“When I was playing in high school and college, back then they didn’t call them concussions,” he said. “But they would now.
“A lot has changed . . . the awareness is much higher. There are more rules (aimed at trying) to prevent them, the NFL has grassroots programs where they give talks to coaches in every football league in the country to basically explain what it is.”
A big reason why Darche has allowed his kids to play youth football is he’s their coach.
“We barely do any hitting in practice and I teach them the right way to block, tackle and all that stuff,” he said. “So that’s part of why I’m comfortable letting them play.
“I’ve noticed in the last eight, nine years since I’ve coached kids that officials and even coaches are much much more aware (about concussions) then they were.”
Darche’s oldest son is now playing for his high school team but he’ll coach his youngest this season.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press