Written by: Melissa Harder
I found the timing between the announcement of the NFL player suspensions for their role in Saints "Bounty-Gate" and Junior Seau’s death absolutely eerie. Four players — Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma — were suspended without pay for conduct detrimental to the NFL as a result of their roles in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program that endangered player safety over three seasons from 2009-2011. That same day, in Oceanside, California, former NFL linebacker Junior Seau, an icon during a 20-year playing career, was found dead in his home of an apparent suicide. Seau was 43, and leaves behind an ex-wife and three children.
"It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced," Roger Goodell said in a statement.
And yet, we now have another NFL player, the third in a year, dead of an apparent suicide. The average life expectancy of an American male is 75. According to the NFL Players Association, the average life expectancy of an NFL player is 58 years of age.
Seau shot himself in the chest the same way Dave Duerson committed suicide 15 months ago. Duerson, the former Chicago Bears all-pro safety, left notes and text messages indicating he wanted his brain donated to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. Seau’s family decided today they plan to donate Junior’s brain to science.
Traumatic encephalopathy is the medical term for dementia caused by the blows players take to the head. Duerson’s autopsy confirmed that his brain had been damaged and diseased from repeated concussions.
And last month, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, 62, shot himself. His wife said he suffered from depression and dementia after taking years of hits. Just a day after Seau’s death, more than 100 former NFL players filed a federal lawsuit in Atlanta claiming that pro football doesn’t properly protect its players from concussions. The plaintiffs include former Atlanta Falcon Jamal Anderson, ex-Georgia star Lindsey Scott and veteran quarterback Don Majkowski.
Seau’s close friends aren’t suggesting head trauma necessarily contributed to his death. ESPN, however, reported that these same friends did say that Seau received several concussions over his career, but never registered any of them with the NFL. This past summer, the lockout provided a forum to discuss player safety and while the NFL made some changes, it left players with the choice between hitting an opponent high or low. High means a player might miss a few games with a concussion. Low means a career might be ended with a knee injury.
Years ago, Seau spoke with Sports Illustrated about the need to limit head trauma as much as possible in the NFL. He talked about fathers not being able to remember their children's names. Seau said if the game doesn't change, "more players, more great players (are going to be affected) by things that we know of and aren't changing. That's not right."
Seau's death can’t help but reopen the discussion over the long-term damage caused by head injuries sustained on the football field. Will concern for players safety ever really come before money, entertainment and a fan’s hunger for huge hits? I don’t know. While a fan yearns for entertainment, we don’t think about how a player’s life will change a few years down the road, long after they’ve hung up their cleats and shelved their pads for the last time.
This year’s National Football League draft gets underway on Thursday night (4/25) in New York’s iconic Radio City Music Hall. The ceremony will begin at 8ET and be televised on ESPN. One can only wonder what the wild and crazy Jets fans will have to cheer (or jeer) about now that the N.Y. …
The 78th edition of the National Football League draft will begin on Thursday night, April 25th at 8pm ET. The official description of this event is The NFL Player Selection Meeting. This gathering will take place at the famous Radio City Music Hall in New York City. …
By Melissa Harder
Next week will mark a big moment in the ongoing concussion class action lawsuit brought by over 4,000 former players against the National Football League (NFL). Lawyers for the former players will argue the matter belongs in federal court while the NFL will push for the claim to be heard in arbitration. …