Head Trauma is Ruining the Lives of My Former NFL Heroes

I was saddened by a television news report this morning concerning the struggles of Tony Dorsett.  Tony Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy in 1976.  He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.  He was a Four Time Pro Bowl player and a Super Bowl winner.  Even though he was a Dallas Cowboy, I respected him for the way he played the game and the class with which he carried himself.  He recounted to Outside the Lines that he is experiencing memory loss and has thoughts of suicide.  He is only 59 years old.

One of my favorite Philadelphia Eagles committed suicide in 2010.  Andre Waters was a punishing defender and along with Wes Hopkins they made the Eagles a feared defense.  A study completed upon his brain after his death indicated that he had the brain of an 80 - 90 year old man.  Junior Seau and Dave Duerson committed suicide also.  They attribute the early demise of these gentlemen to a disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  I derived a lot of satisfaction from the terrible hits and crunching blows administered by some of these guys.  I feel bad about the after effects of the game on these guys who are in my age group.

Recently, Jim McMahon of the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears and then the Eagles and Brett Favre of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and then the Jets and Vikings all have complained of memory loss.  I understand that these gentlemen know some of the risks involved with playing the game.  I wonder if any of them would hesitate to play the game again.   It is a macho game played by very strong individuals who are extremely well conditioned.  Even three hundred pound lineman look better and follow strict nutrition regimens.  The after effects of life in the trenches is tough for thousands of players.

The NFL just settled a lawsuit initiated by former players for $765 million.  That is an astounding sum for the average business but the games have been proceeding with great ratings.  We are looking forward to an outdoor Super Bowl this year and will applaud the eventual winner with great aplomb.  I was not surprised by the sudden retirement of a Denver Bronco player during the bye week.  John Moffitt, an offensive guard, who was earning $765,000.00 this year, called it quits and seems very happy about his decision.  John Martin left the Miami Dolphins on his own but the reason for his doing that is the subject for another blog.

Art Monk was an awesome wide receiver with a Super Bowl on his resume.  Ottis Anderson played with the Giants and Cardinals and won a Super Bowl.  Keith Byars and Eric Allen were some of my favorite Eagles.  Leonard Marshall, who inflicted a punishing hit on Joe Montana in the 1990 NFC title game, has two Super Bowl rings.  Jamal Anderson was a smooth running back for the Atlanta Falcons and didn't seem to take devastating hits.  Don Beebe played on losing Super Bowl teams for the Buffalo Bills.  I was surprised that Seth Joyner and Jeremiah Trotter were also on the list of players suing the NFL.  almost 4500 players signed on to the process.  Concussions and their aftermath are a reality for many former players.  How do we make the game safer for current players? 

It is hard for me to divorce myself totally from the game as a fan.  The Philadelphia Eagles are trying to stay in a playoff race in the weak NFC East.  When I look at the difficulty that former NFL players are having, I wonder about our enjoyment of the pain and hits inflicted on the football field.  Keyshawn Johnson, Tom Jackson, Cris Carter, Phil Simms and Troy Aikman have all made successful transitions to broadcasting careers.  Hugh Douglass lost his job after a much publicized outburst and a subsequent run in with the law.  Can we blame his troubles on CTE?  I hope we can find a solution to help our Sunday heroes.  The life after the fame and supposed fortune is not all it is cracked up to be!

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