By Ken Reed
Most retired NFL players these days live with the uncertainty of not knowing how badly damaged their brains are from the repetitive blows to the head they endured during their careers.
They wonder if they are developing symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease caused by brain trauma. They wonder if their lives will be cut short due to the disease. They wonder if episodes of forgetfulness are indications that the CTE process has already started.
Some feel lost. Others deal with anxiety and depression. For more than a few, suicidal thoughts creep into their minds.
Former Baltimore Raven Jamal Lewis is one of the ex-NFL players who has experienced multiple symptoms associated with CTE. He has also thought about suicide.
“You think about death,” the former Ravens star says.
“I’ve thought about suicide. I’ve thought about ending it all. … You just have those thoughts about should you end it?“
Lewis was recently profiled in a week-in-the-life-type feature by Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report. Lewis’ story is at times chilling, sad and anger-inducing. What it’s especially good at is taking you out of Sunday-football-fan-mode and making you face the reality of football’s toll on the human body, especially the brain.
Lewis deals with the nagging negative thoughts in his head by keeping busy with business ventures and his kids’ activities.
“Because you never know,” Lewis says. “You never know [what] day you’re going to wake up with an issue.”
Lewis is convinced his time for being fully functional — or close to it — as a human being is limited.
“It’s not you you’re worried about,” he says.
“It’s your kids you’re worried about. It’s your family you’re worried about. You not being able to talk. You not being able to move around. … You don’t know when it’s going to hit you. You can manage but there’s only so long you can manage. At the same time, what are you going to do?”
High school, college and professional football players need to be exposed to stories like Lewis’ (and frankly others that are significantly more frightening) in order to somewhat counter the ESPN Sports Center football highlight clips and “glory days” feature stories that are ubiquitous in the fall, when football takes hold of American culture.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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