Luck on His Last Legs

// Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons

By Noah Sanchez, Sports Editor

Football has become America’s favorite sport over the past few years. 

From the moment the final whistle blows on Super Bowl Sunday in February, fans around the world begin counting down the days until the new season in September.

This buildup and anticipation for America’s highest rated sport is a sentiment that is echoed by the players who suit up on Sundays as well.

A feeling that cannot be shared with fans, however, is the wear and tear that is put on athletes both mentally and physically. 

The rigorous schedule of a National Football League season can leave a mark on athletes even long after their careers are over.

Running at full speed into high caliber, athletes who weigh 200 pounds and stand at 6’6’’ on average for sixteen-plus straight weeks, with one measly week off in between, is not something that the human body is equipped to handle, no matter what workout regimen one can implement. 

With the recent sudden retirement of Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck, which was due to being “mentally” and “physically” worn down, brings the question of whether football is worth the toll it takes on an athlete’s body.

Luck has been dealing with injuries since 2015 when he tore his labrum in his shoulder. That injury progressed when he attempted to play through it and ended up tearing an abdominal muscle later in the year.

Luck suffered a concussion the year after and ultimately sat out all of 2017 recovering from these injuries.

After returning to the field in 2018 and playing a full season, it was believed that Luck had recovered from the injuries that had plagued him.

This was until Luck suffered an ankle sprain in training camp this year, which then developed into a calf strain. The injury became more serious as time went on.

Ultimately, Luck realized that playing football was not something he could do while also trying to “live the life he wanted.” 

His early retirement caught the entire country by surprise and brought a sad realization for football fans across America.

Will players decide to step away from the game they love? Luck chose to give up roughly $450 million in order to ensure his overall health.

Will other players follow suit?

As modern medicine has evolved over the years and awareness of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has grown, athletes and their families have raised their concerns over the dangers of playing football and whether it is safe to be on the field. 

CTE is caused by several blows to the head which many athletes endure when they play football. It causes issues such as loss of memory, confusion, depression and dementia. These issues can show up years after their playing careers are over.

A study done by The New York Times has shown that out of 111 NFL players who had their brains examined after death, 110 of them had developed CTE. This list of athletes includes Frank Gifford, Mike Webster, Ken Stabler and Junior Seau.

The development and increasingly dangerous risks of playing football has been the cause of many other early retirements for players in the NFL, such as Chris Boreland.

Boreland, a linebacker from Wisconsin University, retired after only one year in the NFL due to head trauma and fears he had of continuing to play. He had immediate success upon entering the league in 2014. He racked up over 100 tackles during the season and was named to the All-Rookie Team by the Pro Football Writers Association.

The success and financial gain were not enough to keep Boreland on the field, however, as of early 2015, Boreland announced his retirement.

In a conversation on ESPN’s Outside The Lines, Boreland said, “I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health. From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

“I just thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?” he continued. “Is this how I’m going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I’ve learned and knew about the dangers?’”

These words from Boreland show a person who is aware of the risks that come with playing a sport like football and choosing to not take a chance on his health. 

Football is often a sport that is introduced into someone’s life at an early age.

From Pop Warner, who can start at the age of five through high school and varsity all the way to college and a division one program ultimately leading to getting into the NFL the amount of physicality football brings is unrelenting.

In past years, athletes and their families were not aware of potential consequences that could arise as a result of playing football for a living.Now that information is more readily available than ever before, the decline of young athletes willing to play football could decrease significantly.

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