One of the bigger stories this week was that the St. Louis Rams may or may not have inquired about the status of retired quarterback Brett Favre, following the loss of Sam Bradford for the season.
But there was an interesting and saddening subplot to the story. One reason why Favre might not be considering coming back is that he admitted Thursday that he suffers from memory loss in an interview with SportsTalk 570 in Washington D.C., via CBS Chicago.
“This was a little shocking to me that I couldn’t remember my daughter playing youth soccer,” Favre said. “It was just one summer, I think. I could remember her playing basketball, I could remember her playing volleyball, so I kind of think maybe (I thought) she only played a (soccer) game or two. Well, I think she played like eight. So that’s a little bit scary to me. So for the first time in 44 years, that kind of put a little fear in me.”
As well it should. And it has become an all-too-familiar chorus for retired NFL players.
Many folks, and perhaps even some at 345 Park Avenue, might have dusted their hands of the whole concussions-in-football mess following the league's $765 million settlement with former players who had suffered post-career aftereffects from their head trauma.
But the issue is still ripe, and Favre's admission — as one of the tougher and more visible players in recent league history — means the wounds have yet to close themselves.
There is no evidence whatsoever yet that Favre, or several players with similar symptoms, suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the hot-button disease that was chronicled in the piercing "Frontline" report on concussions by PBS earlier this month. But we start to wonder every time we hear about a former player's post-career difficulties and memory lapses.
Watch this clip from Hall of Famer quarterback Steve Young as he described his final concussion as a player. Warning: It's a bit difficult to watch.
That's the whole problem with the issue: No one likes talking about the dangers of football, and with thousands of variable and unknowns, it's extreme grey area. Even doctors can't agree on what the true effects of playing the game are because it's never the same for any two players.
But we do know that players such as Favre and Young, who combined to take 883 sacks in their careers (Favre is the all-time leader with 525), are especially vulnerable. Favre says that he applauds the NFL's rule changes to protect the position.
“I don’t see how you can’t change with the times and try to protect the players more because of the studies that have come out to what concussions can do,” Favre said. “The players, either retired or some of the few players who are either killing themselves or self-destructing, studies have proven that some of this is because of concussions.”
But is that enough? Is there ever a way truly to limit the damage done to players who expose themselves to such violent hits, even with improved equipment and stricter rules on illegal hits? We might never know. But every time a player such as Favre comes out and admits he can't remember his daughter's soccer game, the unease grows.
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