‘I’m happy they’re play­ing’

For­mer pro player J.P. Darche is fine with his kids play­ing foot­ball

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY DAN RALPH THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Jean-Philippe Darche knows all about the foot­ball’s con­cus­sion de­bate.

He played pro­fes­sion­ally for nine sea­sons — 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 — and the po­ten­tial dam­age they can cause — 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 full­time.

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.

AP PHOTO

In this file photo, Seattle Sea­hawks’ Jean-Philippe Darche, of Canada, snaps the ball to Tom Rouen (16) as they warm up prior to the Su­per Bowl XL foot­ball game against the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, Sun­day, Feb. 5, 2006, in Detroit.

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