Today the athlete and sports fan in me feels compelled to share my thoughts on a sad day in the sports world.
We didn’t just lose Junior Seau but today’s news that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition linked to depression and other mental illnesses, was like losing him all over again.
Football, and other sports along the way, have become much more cognizant of the long term affects of concussions. Fortunately it’s also gone beyond the playing fields and floors to an awareness for young children that experience head trauma.
During my childhood, through my professional career as an adult I played hard, got hurt, hit my head, broke bones, blackened eyes, rolled ankles…you name it I did it. But I grew up in a time, and developed the mentality of, get up brush yourself off and keep going. And that mentality carried me through until I suffered a career ending back injury.
I could have undergone surgery and tried to come back but for the first time in my life, brushing myself off wasn’t worth the risk. Hearing my team doctor tell me my back injury would make bearing children a very difficult and painful thing (as if it’s not already painful) somehow made me realize I had jeopardized my body and future quality of life long enough.
I had a doctor that was brutally honest and didn’t just force me to get back on the floor. He told me about how my injury would affect my life.
I’ve read countless Facebook and Twitter comments where fans say football players know the risk, they get paid a ton of money…blah blah blah. That is idiocy is it’s most infantile form.
Junior Seau’s fam is gonna sue the NFL for his brain damage caused by hits? Did they not know that was happenin for the 20 YEARS he played?!
— David Conner (@DConDelight) January 10, 2013
Many players for years and years have not understood or known the risk. Their doctors haven’t told them (an maybe it’s because the doctors didn’t fully know the long term risks at that time) or instead the doctors listened to the athlete saying they feel fine. I hate to be the one to break this shocking news to the sports world, but an athlete always wants to be on the field. They will always feel “fine” no matter how much they hurt or awful they feel. They need doctors, leagues, owners to take their health seriously.
Maybe Seau’s suicide draws some much needed attention to this reality. A man that was known for his smile and vivaciousness spiraled into an inexplicably deep depression leaving family and friends at a loss for what to do.
Thankfully concussions and head traumas are no longer something you just “shake off”. That will hopefully change the course of the future for some athletes years from now. But after decades of helmet to helmet hits I think there will sadly be many more tragedies. Changing the landscape of a sport doesn’t happen overnight.
For now, I think Jordan said it best….
RIP Junior Seau
— Jordan (@jtaylorrr) January 10, 2013