When Is A Game Not A Game ?

 

That’s a question I have been asking myself for quite sometime now. I don’t have the answer! As a matter of fact, like millions of Americans and fans worldwide on February 7th, I shall be glued to a TV set somewhere to watch, cheer, boo and experience the roller coast ride that the wonderful spectacle known as the Super Bowl provides.

I’ll cheer as a wide receiver for my favorite team makes a one-handed grab in the End Zone for a touchdown. I’ll ache and feel dismayed when I think the referee  has made the wrong call… especially, when he calls it against my team. I’ll hold my head in my hands and feel sad if my team loses on a last second field goal. All this being said…I love the game!

Since 1956 I have been involved in all type of sports and in every aspect. I have been a participant, a coach, a member of the President’s Council of Physical Fitness, a team owner, a league Commissioner, a TV Executive, a L Referee, as well as a Licensed Second and corner man, a TV/Events Consultant to the NFLPA  and even promoted for  many memorable Events and some not so memorable.

However, now in my older years, I have formed a different perspective on Sports.  I have changed my position from where I felt that Sports is completely healthy without reservation. Now, to me, Sports is only healthy when put in the proper perspective.

When we play the game, especially when we are young, we possess the belief and the omnipresent feeling that we are indestructible… nothing can harm us.  The men who take the field on February 7th, being youthful and in great shape, share that feeling.

As for me, I have been learning a great deal about the “win at all costs” philosophy and how it damages the future health of those who play today.  Presently, most active participants do not buy into that rationale.

However, constant surveys and studies have shown disastrous results.  A lot has been written about Brain Trauma caused by concussion and what can result in years after leaving the game. However, there is not a single limb or appendage that is not put in jeopardy.

After last year’s Super Bowl  which was seen by 111.5 million people worldwide, Newsday revealed a two year survey that was done by the Harrison Group.  This survey was nearly a two-year project that included an anonymous  and voluntary survey of 763 former players, a  review of hundreds of pages of court documents, and more than 70 interviews with former players, NFL and NFLPA  executives, doctors, professors and other experts.

Retired players say they paved the way that allowed the NFL to become a multi-million dollar business juggernaut.

A team of Newsday reporters and editors developed a list of questions which  was supplied to the NFL Players Association. The NFLPA senior director of the Former players’ services department, Noel Harrison III, a former player himself sent the Survey by email and text  to over 7000 former players.

It is not a truly scientific study since there are probably at least another 9000 players who are not in the NFLPA data base. However, I think you’ll agree that 7000 certainly can give us an insight into the day-to-day perils facing many retirees.

763 former players responded. Their participation was completely voluntary and anonymous. Let’s look at some of the questions and the answers.

Did you find it difficult to adjust to daily life after your NFL career ended? Almost 62% answered yes! 

What has been your biggest challenge in post-NFL life? Over 550 cited injuries from playing career and healthy lifestyle!

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best rate your physical well-being in post NFL career? No respondent reached 10, but 145 reached 7!

What ailments do you suffer from that you believe are related to your NFL  Playing days? The type of injury ran the gamut of all the body parts. The list is too long to answer here. Here is just a sampling: 

72% of the respondents suffered from at least one injury, many had multiple injuries. 

Of the 763 respondents, here are some of the  injuries cited as having lasting effects that have affected their daily life…  everything from memory loss to not being able to swallow, or even walk properly: 

  • Knee Injuries……………………. 525
  • Shoulder Injuries……………… 490
  • Lower Back Injuries…………. 510
  • Neck Injuries……………………..425
  • Head Injuries…………………….380
  • Memory Loss…………………….375
  • Ankle Injuries……………………375

Did you take prescription painkillers during you career? 65% answered yes! 

Do you currently take prescription painkillers for injuries suffered during your career? 28% answered yes! 

Did you experience marital problems after your career? Over 50% answered in the affirmative whereas during their playing day,  the number was a fraction of that! 

Is the league doing enough to make the game safer? 66% answered NO!

Have you struggled financially since your career ended ?  For 51%, the answer was yes! 

There were many more questions and most of them were in a similar fashion. Yet, when the survey asked the final question, the answer was shocking.   

If you had the chance to make the decision all, over again, would you still play in the NFL? 

The shocking answer was a resounding 90+ percent said yes!!! 

The conclusion is two fold:

First, is to prophylactically bring about more sophisticated equipment, medical examinations and immediate care when there is an injury… and with better enforcement of the rules.

Second, increased and better benefits for the retired players.  However, if the first is done, the resulting damage will be greatly reduced.

But, I still ask…When little Johnny comes home asking for permission to play at school, what will your answer be?

By Sheldon Saltman, republished with permission by the author. Original article

 

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