Recently, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El expressed regret about his football career. No, he didn't have regrets about his performance. He regretted playing the sport, revealing he suffers from confusion, pain, and other maladies that have compromised his quality of life. The image of current Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown limp on the field, knocked out after a blow to the head suffered in the Steelers wildcard game against the Cincinnati Bengals was a sad reminder of the dangers associated with professional football.
Tuesday the New York Times reported that former Giants safety Tyler Sash, who died in September of an accidental overdose of pain medication, suffered from CTE. When Sash's career with the New York Giants ended in 2013, he returned to his hometown of Oscaloosa, Iowa where he displayed erratic behavior and had run-ins with the law, that included public intoxication and a four-block police chase.
Like Randle El, Sash suffered memory loss and other symptoms that prevented him from living a full life. Unable to find a job and increasingly moody, Sash also relied on prescription drugs to manage his physical pain. After his accidental overdoes, his mother, searching for answers, had his brain tested for CTE. According to the New York Times, his CTE was unusually advanced for someone his age.
As former players become more vocal about the impact of the sport on their health and, in some cases, die premature deaths, and as current players continue to suffer shockingly brutal hits to the head, the NFL is under pressure to do more to protect the health of its players and protect its image.
Sash's fate is not unique, neither are Randle El's feelings about the sport he once loved. As Antonio Brown recovers from his concussion, the least the NFL can do is to crack down even more on players who intentionally target opponents. While some kinds of on-field violence are inevitable, hits like the one that Vontaze Burfict leveled on Brown are unnecessarily vicious, brutal, and dangerous. And, as has been reported with increasing frequency, can result in problems beyond missed games.