Jason Taylor retired after the 2011 season as a defensive end and outside linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. Taylor is an almost certain first ballot entrant to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016 when he becomes eligible.
Taylor came to the NFL barely weighing 225 pounds. He seemingly grew up right before the public’s eyes, from a skinny kid to a future Hall of Famer. His very public path was done in front of the spotlight for 15 years. But take a look at what was happening in the dark.
He was just a few blessed hours from having his leg amputated. He played games, plural, with a hidden and taped catheter running from his armpit to his heart. His calf was oozing blood for so many months–from September of one year to February of another–that he had to have the equivalent of a drain installed.
Taylor routinely throughout his career endured having needles stuck into his body to treat injuries. The needles themselves would cause so much pain that doctors would give him a towel to place in his mouth so that he wouldn’t bite his tongue and to muffle his screams.
On one occasion in 2006 when he was suffering from a herniated disk in back, he received a shot at a doctor’s office. As his wife helped him down the front steps of the office to his car, his back locked up and he wound up lying on the pavement, curled up and crying form the pain. He had to be taken back into the doctor’s office for another shot to relieve that pain. Ironically, it was in 2006 that Taylor was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Taylor says now that there was a period of 18 to 24 months when he could not pick his kids up to put them into bed. He says he would hold them and hover over their bed, then drop them onto the bed and watch them bounce because he could not bend over.
He isn’t bragging, and he isn’t complaining. He wants to make sure you know that. He feels lucky and blessed to have done what he did. He is just answering questions matter-of-factly about the insanity of the world where he worked. It is a barbaric game, where you try to be more of a man than the next man and put your pain threshold against your muscled opponent’s. All of these competition-aholics collide at an inhumane rate of speed and force.
So did he lie to the doctors? Yes.
Did he get in that player deli line outside the trainer’s room before the game to get that secret elixir, a Toradol shot in the butt that would lubricate and soothe away the aches for three hours despite its side effects (chest pains, headaches, nausea, bloody stool, coughing up blood, vomit that looks like coffee grounds)? Yes.
Taylor tells in a matter-of-fact manner how he almost lost his leg due to an injury that was masked by all of the pain killers he was taking. He tells his story as a cautionary tale of what players will go through to pursue the dream of fame and riches.
Taylor’s story is a powerful one. Readers who want to read the entire story, should read the story done Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 by Miami Herald award winning sports reporter Dan Le Batard.
Anyone who reads the story will realize how difficult the battle to protect football players from serious injury really is. The sport has a seedy underside that most of us prefer not to recognize. But no true fan of the game should ignore this reality.
Greg Tyler is the Library Director at the United States Sports Academy. He has also taught courses at the Academy in sports law. He worked for years in youth sports as a coach, league administrator and as a soccer referee. He has a law degree and practiced law for a number of years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.