Much Pain, No Gain.

(Update, January 31,2008: Kevin Everett is now able to walk and is regaining the use of his hands. See Everett Again Standing Tall.)

I go to the gym regularly. I mostly do aerobics and also lift weights. From time to time I hear someone say, “No pain, no gain.”

I don’t pay attention to them. Whenever I feel any pain while working out, I stop what I’m doing. If I don’t immediately feel the pain go away, or if I find the day after a workout that I don’t feel up to snuff, then I stop going to the gym for a few days to give my body a chance to recover.

It is now early September. The NFL football season is starting up just as the baseball season is nearing the start of the playoffs.

Baseball players feel pain, mostly by the wear and tear on their bodies of playing so many games in a season. But it’s rare when an injury to one player is caused by another.

That’s not the case in the NFL. It’s part of the game. The goal of every defensive lineman is to take down the opposing quarterback, as the quarterback is the key offensive player.

I found abundant evidence of this in today’s Sports Section.

Points, Pain and Problems reports that

The Giants were jolted by injuries — the most worrisome being quarterback Eli Manning’s bruised shoulder — and undone by a soft defense. Again, they could not win in the end.

The Giants, for all their off-season changes in attitude and personnel, felt a familiar twinge of regret as they packed their belongings. They were in position to win, more than desultory enough to lose, and shaken by injuries to players considered vital to their season’s hopes. .

In the first half alone, the Giants were dealt game-ending knee injuries to defensive end Osi Umenyiora (unspecified) and running back Brandon Jacobs (sprained medial collateral ligament); the severity of each will be known on Monday.

Tynes, in adding to the parade of unusual plays, had the calf of his kicking leg cramp severely at impact on a fourth-quarter kickoff. His next kickoff bounced meekly down the middle of the field, and Tynes said later that he hoped treatment on Monday would loosen the knot.

I happened to see part of the game on TV, including the part that showed a physician examining Manning’s shoulder on the sidelines. It’s a sad sign that teams need to have a doctor on the sidelines at a game.

Too bad for NY’s Giants. How about the Jets?

Pennington Is Hurt in a Punishing Loss:

The line that ought to fill Jets fans with foreboding is not the one anchored by the second-year center Nick Mangold. It was so shaky Sunday in a 38-14 defeat to the New England Patriots that quarterback Chad Pennington looked like a sitting duck on the opening day of hunting season.

Pennington injured his right leg in the third quarter, and afterward was asked about his availability for the Jets’ game next week at Baltimore.

“I have no idea,” he said in what was easily the worst line of the day for the Jets. “I am sure I will see the doctors frequently this week, and we’ll see what happens.”

In the third quarter, Pennington’s right leg buckled while he was being sacked. With much effort and apparent anguish, he hopped on his left foot to the sideline at Giants Stadium, only to return on the next possession.

It was a scene that took people back to a home game two Septembers ago, when Pennington injured his throwing shoulder but returned to play out the defeat. After that, Pennington did not take another snap that season because of a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. But in his postgame news conference then, he did his best John Wayne impression, saying that doctors would have to cut off his shoulder for him not to play the next week, at Baltimore.

So here we are. One game into the season, and both New York quarterbacks injured.

But it gets even worse — Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills was injured yesterday and there is concern he may never walk again:

Bills’ Tight End Has Surgery After Spinal Injury:

Buffalo Bills reserve tight end Kevin Everett had surgery Sunday after injuring his spine on a kickoff against the Denver Broncos, and there is concern about whether he will be able to walk again.

”He’s had some sparse movement,” Everett’s agent Brian Overstreet told The Associated Press in a phone interview late Sunday.

”The next couple of days is going to be critical,” said Overstreet, responding to a question about paralysis. ”Our concern is for him to come out of this healthy and, hopefully, be able to walk again.”

Overstreet said Everett came out of a ”lengthy surgery” Sunday evening and the plan was for his mother, Patricia Dugas, to arrive from Texas on Monday.

Everett fell to the ground and never moved after a helmet-to-helmet hit when he tackled Denver’s Domenik Hixon during a kickoff to open the second half. Everett was placed on a backboard with his head and body immobilized, and carefully loaded into an ambulance at the Broncos 30.

The game was delayed for about 15 minutes, and the Bills gathered at the sideline while doctors attended to the player.

At 9:45 p.m., as he was leaving Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital, Bills’ tight end Ryan Neufeld told Buffalo’s WIVB-TV the surgery ”went well as far as we can tell and he’s recovering right now.”

Bills general manager Marv Levy said doctors informed the team that it’s too early to determine the severity of the injury and they will know more after monitoring the player overnight.

”Certainly, we feel the injury is serious, but I don’t want to speculate, and that’s what the doctors told us,” Levy told The Associated Press. ”They told us to wait to hear from them before making any speculative announcement.”

Coach Dick Jauron said immediately following the game that the player sustained a cervical spine injury, but wouldn’t discuss the severity of the injury.

Everett’s injury cast a pall over the Bills following a season-opening 15-14 loss, with several players expressing concern about their teammate.

”It was real hard,” cornerback Terrence McGee said. ”I watched the whole thing and he never moved. … It’s real sad to see him go off on a stretcher, but we hope he’s OK.”

Buffalo’s third-round draft pick in 2005, Everett missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury, and spent most of his second season limited to special teams duty.

Buffalo also lost three defensive starters to injury.

Free safety Ko Simpson is out indefinitely after breaking his left ankle. Cornerback Jason Webster is out indefinitely after breaking his forearm in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Coy Wire, filling in for injured starter Keith Ellison, sprained his knee in the first quarter.

Simpson was hurt when he had his feet cut out from beneath him by teammate Jason Webster as the two were attempting to tackle Broncos receiver Javon Walker. Simpson fell immediately to the ground and was unable to put any weight on his left foot.

A fine young man goes to work on a Sunday afternoon to do the thing he loves best … and may never walk again. Understandable for a soldier or a miner or a truck driver, but for a football player? Something is wrong, very wrong.

All this happened in just one day of the NFL’s schedule.

I don’t need to watch this medical “reality” TV show on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps ABC should start running General Hospital on the weekends, maybe move Grey’s Anatomy to Sunday nights.

And I won’t even go into the many sad reports of professional football players who will have to live with — as some have died from — the long-term effects of multiple concussions to the brain. Just do a web search for “football concussion.”

Yes, football is a contact sport. Yet modern conditioning programs have become so good, and there is such a monetary incentive because many of us spend part of our weekends watching athletes of enormous size, speed and strength intentionally throw their bodies at one another, providing that vast audience that attracts advertisers, and so makes available the money that pays for the teams … and also for the expense of large hospital bills.

Too much pain, way to much pain, for so little gain.

Let’s hope the owners, executives and players who make this game possible work together to find ways to make it safer.

Until they do, we’ll all share their pain.

Postscript added 2007/09/21: Today’s NY Times bears good news, The Bills’ Everett Will Head Home to Houston to Start His Rehabilitation, “Everett has continued to defy doctors’ early predictions as he recovers from a collision Sept. 9 against the Denver Broncos that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.”

My thoughts are with Mr. Everett and his family and I fervently hope his recovery goes well.

By the way, the Times also reports that outcome of yet another cheating episode in sport, showing this is not confined to football, and can be found in cycling, too.

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