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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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