“It’s Completely Unraveling.”

football1A soapbox can be a lonely place. Especially on Super Bowl Sunday. Especially when I really do want to see Bruno Mars at half time. Especially when it seems like everyone will be watching.

But (me).

I used to love football (go ‘9ers!)

Not anymore.

Because football is increasingly brutal and senselessly violent. And, in every NFL game, including the “super” one today, men will crash into one another and get their clocks cleaned and their bells rung.

It’s part of the game. And, people will cheer.

And, brains will be injured.

Some will heal. But, some won’t.

And, the National Football League will continue to do its best to pretend like everything is ok.

And, they will continue to ignore the broken and damaged brains in so many broken and damaged players who no longer play the game.

This season the NFL reported that players sustained 228 concussions – a decrease from the previous season.

But, concussion experts say these numbers are deceiving, since the NFL doesn’t catch every concussion and players often hide their symptoms.

Gary Plummer

Gary Plummer. Permission: By © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Former NFL linebacker Gary Plummer estimates that he sustained five Grade I concussions in every game he played. Every game.

One thousand concussions over the course of his career.

Remember Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994? Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman doesn’t. 

He sustained a “mild” concussion in the NFC championship game and was still feeling dizziness and other effects of the injury when he led the Cowboys to their Super Bowl victory over the Bills. Today, he doesn’t remember a thing.

(Last week, Aikman told reporters he has had no recent issues related to the injury.)

But, a few forgotten hours is a small price to pay, compared to the debilitating, dark, and tragic reality facing many former players whose brains have been irreparably damaged by the game they loved.

It’s heartbreaking.

sean morey

Sean Morey. Permission: LPDrew via Creative Commons 2.0

On Friday, National Public Radio (NPR) told the story of Sean Morey, 37, who spent 10 years in the NFL and today struggles with the effects of long-ago, football-related concussions on a brain that has not – will not – heal.

Morey says there’s no question his symptoms are related to brain trauma he sustained playing football.

“You cannot feel that kind of pain and have it not be related to brain damage,” he told NPR. “The dysfunction, the pain, the misery, the confusion, the desperation, the depression. …

“There were instances in my life that would never have existed had I not damaged my brain.”

“It is completely unraveling.”


Listen here.

The damage is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degeneration of the brain caused by repeated brain trauma and concussions. It is found in the brains of former NFL players, as well as those who played only in high school and college.  It appears years – sometimes decades – after the original  brain injury and shows itself in myriad ways. Memory loss, confusion, impulse control problems, dementia, depression, suicide.

Despite what the NFL would like you to believe, the damage is real. And, football is to blame.

Apologists say that players know the risk and can choose their fate.

That doesn’t absolve the NFL from its responsibility to provide proper treatment to its current players and adequate medical care to its former players.

I know the risk, too. And, I, too, can choose.

I love a good game. I really do.

But, if it means that even one player will struggle some day with brain damage and dementia simply to entertain me today, count me out.


My previous posts on brain injuries and concussions in sports:

The NFL Knew. And, They Covered It Up.

Don’t Try This At Home.

* * *

The Sports Legacy Group works to raise awareness to CTE and brain trauma in athletics and in the military. They work to help coaches and athletes at all levels of sports better understand how to prevent head trauma, as well as encourage proper treatment of concussions so that the brain may better heal.


For more on their efforts click here.

* * *

To watch the excellent Frontline piece “League of Denial” on the NFL and the CTE crisis click here.

league of denial

Frontline recently updated their report.

Frontline Update

Click here.

And, for the powerful book that accompanies it click here.

league of denial book

My Elbow. Manny Machado’s Knee.


Manny Machado. August 20, 2013 vs. the Oakland A’s. Photo Credit: me!

Two years ago I tore up the tendons in my left elbow. Giving too many massages, going a little too deep, doing a little too much. (Trust me, massage may be peaceful on the outside, but it’s brutal on the inside.)

Each time I did a massage, my arm ached. The discomfort was one thing, but the emotional toll was, in many ways, much worse. What if I am doing permanent damage? What if I can’t do massage anymore? What if it hurts forever?

When a doctor diagnosed it as “pitcher’s elbow” I thought, well, that’s pretty cool – if I’m going to have a stupid injury it might as well be a baseball one.

It took more than a year, but today that elbow is nearly good as new (thanks mostly to Yoga, laser therapy, and patience). Nearly. But, now the right elbow is torn up … same thing, different arm.

So the cycle begins again.

Which brings me to my broken heart.

As the post-season hopes for the Baltimore Orioles grew dimmer and dimmer this weekend, their third-baseman Manny Machado was badly injured on Monday in a freakish knee twist that came as he was running to first base. His season is over.

He looked stricken far beyond the physical pain. (I think he started to cry.) And, I wonder if the physical pain was as bad as the emotional pain? What about next season? How bad is it? How long will it take? What if it doesn’t get better? To go from Superstar to disabled list on a stupid, routine play.

I’ve been an Orioles fan for nearly 30 years. And, in all that time, I have only one Orioles shirt with a number on it, with a name. I never even got a Cal Ripken jersey (although I’d be proud to wear one). I celebrate the team. I don’t like getting bogged down in picking a favorite player.

(Players can let you down. I’m looking at you, Rafael Palmeiro.)

Until last year, when I got this …


Manny Machado – the barely 21-year-old poster child for the Orioles’ exciting and bright future — made me break my rule.

Because he hits doubles like crazy. And, does amazing things like this


And, this

Manny2 9 12 12

Nowadays, when my elbow feels good, everything is good. But, when my elbow feels bad, which is still a lot of the time, I get frustrated. I worry about the quality of the massage I am giving. I worry about the long-term damage I might be causing.

I love what I do. What will I do, if I can’t do this?

My office is in a small rural community. I keep my massage prices low so people can afford me. So I see a lot of clients from all walks – many dealing with chronic pain from repetitive stress and work-related damage. Pain much worse than my crabby elbow tendons.

Construction workers, butchers, ranchers and farmers, plumbers, nurses, truck drivers, carpenters, mail carriers, police officers, piece workers.

All I can hope to do is try to take the edge off for them, to work out the sticky places, loosen things up, and maybe give them some brief relief.

One client, who deals with daily pain from her job, said to me recently, “There’s no other jobs out there. I can’t afford to lose this one.” She worries every night that she won’t be able to “hold together” enough to work.

I suppose Manny thought some of those same sorts of things. From invincible to injured in a blink.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you make a million dollars or just scrape by. Injury is the great equalizer.

It can take away your job and your paycheck. It can take away something you love. Just like that.

But, there’s some good news.

Manny’s MRI showed a tear to a ligament that helps stabilize and protect the kneecap. A painful injury, but one that generally heals on its own after six to eight weeks of rest and rehab. It could have been much worse.

I’m not 21 anymore. Healing is much better, much faster, when you’re 21, like Manny.

And, Manny has access to resources that many of us don’t. He has a team of doctors and therapists who will help him recover. (Hopefully, he has an awesome massage therapist. And, yoga therapist. And, if not … well, I hope the Orioles finally look me up.)

So, no worries, Manny … my heart is broken for you today. But, I know you’ll heal. You have to. Baseball’s no fun without you.

And, for those of us who hurt a little – or a lot – doing what we love, we want you to get better. We need you to get better. So you can inspire us to heal, too.

The NFL Knew. And They Covered It Up.

If a big food corporation sells a contaminated product that makes people sick, they’re forced to remove the food from the shelves. If people actually died? Well, that could be criminal … or at least a top story in the news.

Same with pharmaceuticals. Car companies. Toy manufacturers. Anyone, really, who runs afoul of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the FDA, or even just riles up the local consumer action reporter at the evening news, has a lot of explaining to do if their product is dangerous.

So here’s what I don’t get.

How can the National Football League (NFL) endanger its players – knowingly – and still be not only the most popular sport in the country, but also the most profitable?

I loved football. Growing up, I was diehard for the 49ers. Oakland Raiders, too, but mostly ’9ers. I still have my Ronnie Lott bobblehead. My husband is from Colorado and a Broncos fan. Occasionally, I will say “55 to 10”. That’s all. Just “55 to 10.” He knows what I mean.  (Click here if you don’t.)

But, in recent years I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the growing violence of the game. The collisions seem uglier than usual. The game is becoming more about the train wreck, head-on-head, smash-ups. (And, this was even before the news broke this year about the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty hunting” – where players received financial bonuses based on the severity of the injuries they inflicted on opponents. The more serious the injury, the bigger the payoff.)

I started to lose interest in football, initially, because I was falling for baseball, and something had to give. Baseball seemed so much more athletically graceful. So much more strategically interesting. So much less ugly and brutal. So much more fun.

Oh sure, I thought football and I could still be friends. Even though I was in love with another game.

But, I finally had to break up with football.

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