The NFL and Serious Brain Injuries

I have been a die hard NFL fan for almost 40 years.  As another season begins, my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the continuing struggles of former players who try to adjust to life after the game.  A Super Bowl win by the Eagles might relieve all of my misgivings but I truly feel sorry for the players that I emulated from various teams while enjoying the game.  Andre Waters, Dave Duerson and Junior Seau were warriors while playing the game.  They are all dead.  Mike Webster, a former All Pro center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, died at 50.  There a number of other players like Ray Easterling and Ted Johnson who might not have name recognition, but suffer the effects of concussions.

Some of the most enjoyable times of my life have been spent preparing for and participating in football parties.  When Donovan McNabb was at the top of his game, we thought we had a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl.  We would work on preparing dishes and rotate house to house for our numerous parties.  We were not at the level of having RVs or season tickets, but we partied none the less.  Our one recent Super Bowl ended in a loss to the Patriots but you cannot take away from the times we had.  Donovan tried to make a comeback this year but recently signed as an Announcer on some network.  Our Super Bowl dreams continue with Michael Vick at the helm.

Kevin Turner was a selfless player for the Philadelphia Eagles.  He played fullback in an era that utilizes this position to clear space and create running gaps.  He suffers from ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.  He attributes this to the many jarring hits he took as a player.  In fact, over 2,000 former players have become part of a lawsuit filed against the NFL due to what they feel was a lack of awareness about the long term effects of concussions.  The macho syndrome did not allow for being hurt or missing plays  Someone was always ready to take your place on the field.

A play that I can remember for its ferocity was when Sheldon Brown laid Reggie Bush out with a vicious hit during a playoff game that the Eagles eventually lost.  The hit riled up the Eagles faithful.  It is these kind of hits that makes our game so much fun.  Tennis is for patsies.  Team handball is played across the pond.  We thrive on violence.  As I get older, I am beginning to question my devotion to the game in light of the struggles that former players are having.  Everyone knows the risks before they suit up.  Are the rewards of depression, brain injury and debilitating physical pain really worth it?

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