I began reading about Rob Kelly who retired from the NFL after playing 5 seasons Saints and Patriots (1 year). Rob played the position of safety beginning in the late 1990s, he sustained an injury to a nerve between his neck and shoulder during training camp that eventually ended his career. Retiring in 2002 he had already logged over two decades of football on his body.
Rob like many of his peers had no idea that all those years of playing would have such a serious impact on his long term health. Do they feel the pain on impact during practice or in a game? Of course they do but they love this game and they know in the back of their minds that being on the sidelines is a slow and painful path to the exit from the sport they love and treasure.
Yes football is a violent sport, all of the players know this. The players and staff try to maintain order when everyone knows that one violent hit after another is going to take a level of impact on the brain and body that may end a players career but little is done for life after football and the impact monetarily with all the healthcare insurance cost let alone the ability to get and maintain life insurance for their families.
To blame the sport is not fair as for decades, it was not well understood that football can permanently harm the brain. Had this imformation been known, many parents would most likely not have allowed their children to play. Prior to 2009 this reality was obscured by the N.F.L.’s top medical experts, who for years had denied any link between the sport and long-term degenerative brain diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Things started to change in late 2009 when, when for the first time, the N.F.L. publicly acknowledged that concussions can have long-term effects. In 2016, a top league official admitted that there is a connection between football and C.T.E., which has now been found in the brains of more than 100 deceased players. But for Rob, and so many others, those admissions came too late. The future of the sport is changing and may be altered to such a point as to never look the same again.
For those families impacted by the harsh reality of what they face it’s daunting. Medical insurance premiums do not go down. Support, depending on when you played, may be inadequate and leaving protective life insurance policies behind are hard to find and or afford for those impacted by C.T.E. The media can help.
Thanks to the NY Times for providing the background and photo on this story and Emily Kelly.