Considering the reports about Junior Seau’s depression and how detached some ex-players become when the lights top shining bright, George has an excellent point. We look for the overarching reason for the problem instead examining what is underneath.
There’s little doubt that brain trauma is debilitating the lives of ex-NFL players. But there’s also the other problem: Transitioning into that life. Very few things compare to the lifestyle of professional athletes. For some, thinking about a meal is a foreign concept. Purchasing clothes is done by a staffer. Picking out flowers for a girlfriend is taken care of by a secretary. Normal, everyday tasks that define existence are taken out of a professional athlete’s life for five or ten years.
Add in the regimented scheduling, constant positive reinforcement, and adulterated fame and you are left with a lifestyle that doesn’t work in the real world. Further more, their skill set doesn’t help them become anything outside the gridiron. Sure, the articulate ones can become analysts, but what percentage fit that bill?
While NFL players are far more educated than, say, MLB athletes, they are behind when it comes to adaptable skills in the job market. It’s hard to justify going from $4 million defensive end to entry level computer programer.
Eddie spoke of a “period of depression and detachment.” That’s absolutely a byproduct of the physical toll football puts on the body, but also an indictment on the NFL for not helping their players make the transition back to life.
In some ways, their post-career lives are similar to those of Veterans — not their impact or importance, but the uniqueness of transitioning back to normal life. The average person can’t understand the physical tole of war or impact collisions. The rest of us just see the aftermath.
Roger Goodell and the NFL are doing the right thing by trying to identify the main causes and eliminate as many head injuries as possible. That won’t help the healthy ex-star running back from feeling lost and inadequate when his playing days are over, though.
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