Timothy Holcombe, Staff Writer
The NFL (National Football League) just finished week 2 of the regular season, and a major topic of discussion already is the safety of the players on the field, along with the effects the game has on them off of it. CTE is a brain disease that causes cause serious disruptions in the brain, so much so that it eventually can prevent players from being able to perform basic daily activities.
One player in particular who suffered from CTE was Junior Seau. Seau was a Hall of Fame Linebacker who played for 20 years with the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. In 2012, years after Seau announced his retirement, news broke that he had committed suicide. No one knew the reasoning behind this, until doctors studied Seau’s brain further during his autopsy. They discovered that he had been living with one of the most severe cases of CTE any doctor had ever seen. CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and it is mainly found in people who have obtained large amounts of contact to the head throughout their lives. For anyone who watches football, it’s quite clear that players in any position take a lot of hits all over the body, but the head is one of the main areas of contact far too often.
Desmond Williams, a former defensive lineman for North Greenville from 2015-2019, believes he avoided potential future-impacting injury in part because of the trainers around him. “The trainers at North Greenville did a great job getting us prepared [for games]. One of our trainers gave us a stat for defensive lineman that shocked me. The average lineman goes through about 3 car crashes per game.”
Andrew Luck was the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts up until the beginning of this season and he seemed to be getting ready for another year with his team. Shockingly, the 29 year old QB decided to call it quits and retire right before the season began, due to the fact that he could no longer deal with the constant pain and rehabilitation football was bringing upon him. After the announcement, many analysts and fans slammed the quarterback for such a late decision but according to Williams, they should be ashamed of themselves.
“I understood his decision, I was more upset with the people that criticized him. The simple fact is that as a football player, you are going through injury after injury and constantly wonder if I you are ever going to get back to where you were. Then you finally get back on the football field, and boom, you're out again. So I wholeheartedly respect his decision, because it is a grind to through injury, rehab, practice and then rehab again.”
The topic changed and became directed towards CTE and whether or not Desmond had noticed any changes about himself. “Me, personally, no. But I have seen and met some guys that had numerous concussions. It's kind of scary to think or talk about but after a while it starts to take a toll on you. Some days I wake up and I’m wondering why I’m hurting? Then you face yourself and remember you did play football for 15 years.”
Parents have recently said that they would never allow their kids to play football, but Williams had a slightly different and more balanced perspective on the issue.“For me, it's a very tough situation. I'd rather them play flag football to start with, then maybe once you get to high school, you can get on the field and bang around. It's also going to be tough if I have a six year old who says they want to be like their dad. It will be tough to turn him down.”
Football may be a fun sport to play and watch, but we must remember to not see these athletes as robots. They are human beings just like the rest of us, dealing with the constant pain of playing football everyday while also knowing the risk of CTE possibly affecting your future. So don’t be surprised if more players follow Luck’s lead and decide to say, “I’m done. I don’t want to risk my health for football any more.”