November 10, 2010
Sad news from one of the most interesting and entertaining players of this last generation -- According to the Chicago Tribune, former Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles (among other teams) quarterback Jim McMahon is suffering from memory loss that he ties to head injuries he suffered during his NFL career. The 51-year-old McMahon was the controversial "punky QB," and the winning signal-caller in the Chicago Bears' 46-10 Super Bowl XX victory in January of 1986.
"Back then, it was just tape an aspirin to your helmet and you go back in," McMahon said Friday at the Bears' recent Super Bowl XX reunion. "I've worked with some neurosurgeons and it's a very serious thing, man.
"My memory's pretty much gone. There are a lot of times when I walk into a room and forget why I walked in there. I'm going through some studies right now and I am going to do a brain scan. It's unfortunate what the game does to you."
Unfortunate indeed, and even more unfortunate that it took so long for the NFL to even acknowledge the tie between head injuries and their long-term effects. Former players such as Wayne Chrebet, Merrill Hoge and Ron Jaworski have been talking about the issue for years; McMahon's case is hardly an isolated incident.
[Photos: Jim McMahon through the years]
"The honest truth is we're going to lie [about getting back in the game], whether it's your head or a knee or any kind of injury," Chrebet said in a 2007 New York Times story. "[The league has] to take it out of the players' hands. We want to be out there. We want to be out there for our teammates, out there for the fans, out there for the organization, and that's how we're going to do things. If the guidelines say that you definitely have to miss a certain amount of time, that would probably help the cause."
Player safety has been an increasing and obvious issue in recent weeks, given the fines meted out to Pittsburgh's James Harrison(notes) and other players for what appears to be incidental contact at times. Above and beyond all the kvetching about how it affects the game, the real issue at the end of the day is for people like McMahon, and his fellow former players, to be able to live lives after football that don't include alarming news like this.
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