The superbowl Sunday night was a magnificent game, in which the underdog Eagles got the better of the favored New England Patriots. While I enjoyed the game immensely, in the fine company of friends, I kept thinking about this article, in that mornings NYT Sunday Review.
“My husband, Rob Kelly, is a retired N.F.L. player. After five seasons as a safety beginning in the late 1990s, four with the New Orleans Saints and one with the New England Patriots, he sustained an injury to a nerve between his neck and shoulder during training camp that ended his career. By the time he retired in 2002 at 28, he had been playing tackle football for about two decades.
Rob had no idea, however, that all those years of playing would have such serious consequences. Safeties are the last line of defense and among the hardest hitters in the game. One tackle he attempted while playing for the Saints was so damaging, he doesn’t remember the rest of the game. He got up, ran off the field and tried to go back in — as an offensive player. He knows this only because people told him the next day.”
“, , , Specific details about how he wanted his funeral to be, and his demand that he be cremated, were brought up with excruciating frequency. One particularly dark time, he went five days without eating anything; he drank only water and a few swigs of chocolate milk. He was suffering deeply and barely surviving. My love and affection seemed to offer no comfort or solace. I felt helpless.
It wasn’t until I joined a private Facebook group of more than 2,400 women, all connected in some way to current or former N.F.L. players, that I realized I wasn’t alone.
Our stories are eerily similar, our loved ones’ symptoms almost identical: the bizarre behavior I had tried to ignore, the obsessive laundering of old clothes — our washing machine ran from morning till night.
It was comforting and terrifying all at the same time. Why did so many of us see the same strange behaviors? “Our neurologist said they do it to calm their brains,” one friend told me.
Symptoms consistent with C.T.E. are a recurring topic in the Facebook group. They include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression and anxiety. These problems become apparent sometimes years or even decades after a player hangs up his helmet.”