Wes, I turned 42 this summer. The last four years have been hard.
Before I became this guy, I was a meat-eating, hard-charging, will-powered machine of a person. I believed that I could do anything. I still kind of believe that I can do anything. I raced bikes and loved it. The end came with what was my 8th concussion on paper. I know I’ve had many more than that. I’m sure you know what I mean.
Lots of pundits are out there discussing your well-being and what you should do. A lot of them are well-intentioned, but don’t speak from experience. Continue reading →
While the sports world stands trivially transfixed with Richard Sherman’s NFC Championship post-game interview, lawyers on both sides of the recently-denied-for-preliminary-approval NFL Concussion Settlement scurry around in relative obscurity. With the sheer outrage mustered toward Sherman’s antics, one would think that America’s Game is being threatened. Once again, we’re proving as a nation that we are easily distracted.
America’s Game IS being threatened- but it’s not being threatened by Richard Sherman’s interview decorum. America’s Game is being threatened by a sub-par settlement, chiseled out by the bean counters and face savers at the NFL as well as a handful of plaintiff attorneys, who will take a sizeable sum of the bounty for their own coffers rather than forward it to deserving players. Worse yet, the settlement is based on troublesome language that calls to question just which players might qualify for medical benefits under it (for more detail on that, Patrick Hruby’s January 14th article is good reading). Continue reading →
Improving health and safety in football became a passion of mine after I suffered from second impact syndrome while playing in a high school football game and fell victim to the culture of toughness that exists in all sports. Despite the fact that football nearly took my life, to this day I still love the game and I do not regret one play from my 10 years of participation. Many of my fondest memories are from playing high school football and I credit the game and my coaches for making me the man I am today. Because of the intense passion I have for football, I become infuriated when I see professional players undermining the NFL’s attempts to make the game safer by taking cheap shots on defenseless receivers. Continue reading →
I used to take getting out of bed in the morning without a scorching headache for granted.
I used to take having my days free from nausea that rivaled the worst sea sickness that you have ever had for granted.
I used to take not having depression brought on by hits to the head for granted.
I would have never imagined a scenario in which I would have prayed for my death to come as quickly as possible – so that I could be delivered from the daily agony that I felt from my multiple concussions. But, I found myself doing just that. That’s unconscionable for a guy who considers himself a fighter- someone who can persevere through any obstacle. It’s unconscionable for a guy who loves his wife and kids with every fabric of his being; a guy who loves life, period. And it should be unconscionable for anyone else, regardless of circumstances.
On May 2nd, 2012, I was on the Mass Pike and driving home with my wife after she had a procedure at one of the Boston-Area hospitals. She was resting comfortably in the passenger seat and I was driving, absent-mindedly listening to Boston sports radio when a breaking news bulletin came over: Junior Seau had been found dead in his home of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. No more information was known.
It felt as if Floyd Mayweather had just punched me as hard as he could in the gut.
As of that day, I was roughly a full year into living with diagnosed post-concussion syndrome. It’s a hell that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The symptoms reduce you to a barely-functioning subhuman. Life with PCS is literally pure agony and thoughts of suicide are fairly common for people who suffer from it.
As I digested the news, I knew with every fabric of my being that Seau finally succumbed to the agony of living with too many head injuries. I was positive. I reached over to my sleeping wife, gently squeezed her arm, and said, “Junior Seau killed himself”. She stirred and said, “What?” I repeated it, and then said, “Damn it, it’s got to be the concussions. Just wait- if we hear that he didn’t shoot himself in the head, that’s all I need to know.”
Ten minutes later, the next bulletin came over with more information, and this time, mentioned that Junior had shot himself in the chest.
I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears.
I mourned for the man; a man that I had grown to dislike when he played for the San Diego Chargers. I was a Patriots fan, and their natural rivalry with the Chargers often left me cursing as Seau would break through the line time and time again and deposit our quarterbacks on their asses. I respected him as a warrior, however, and I marveled at his toughness. He was unstoppable. Of course, I just about danced a jig when the Patriots signed him, and all of his previous transgressions were quickly forgotten by me in short order. I mourned for all three variants of the man that I was familiar with. And, I began to mourn for myself. What did this mean for me? As someone who suffered from multiple concussions and undoubtedly suffered daily misery from their effects, would this be my fate?
My thoughts raged as I sat on the side of the Massachusetts Turnpike, cried, and cars passed me at 85 miles per hour.
This morning, one of my friends notified me immediately that researchers affiliated with the National Institute of Health found CTE in Junior’s brain tissue. CTE can only be found post-mortem, and it is indicative of damage brought on from too many hits to the head. It’s a final monument to the dangers of ignoring concussions.
I don’t know how to focus the correct message on dealing with concussions appropriately, but I do know that I am going to double down on the volume of my participation.