High Cost of a Football Star

Six out of 10 former NFL football players say they've suffered at least one concussion while playing football, and that's not good news, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina.

They say they've found a correlation between the number of concussions a player has had and clinical depression during retirement.

"That's, I think, of great importance," said Kevin Guskiewicz, the research director at the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes in North Carolina. "[It's] something, without quescion, we need to get a handle on."

Unfortunately, according to the North Carolina study , depression is only one of many medical problems that players face long after leaving the field.

'Superman' Feeling

For many NIL players, it's the thrill and the glamour of playing with some of the greatest athletes in the world that drives them. John William, an NFL running back for eight years, is familiar with those feelings.

"You do feel like you are a superman," Williams said. "You can do anything you want, you can get anywhere you want, you can go anywhere you want to go."

But, it's a short-lived feeling.

"If you're an owner, the NFL is an acronym for National Football League," said Neil Cornrish, a sports attorney in Cleveland. "If you're a player it stands for 'not for long.'"

The average NFL career lasts less than four years. Forty percent of all NFL players retire because of injury. For Williams, his pivotal moment was in 1995, when he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"When I dove for the pass, I ended up hitting my knee on the turf, and that pretty much did it," said Williams. "There was nothing else I could do, nothing except get my knee ready to be able to walk. I had to get my knee ready to play with the kids. I had to get my knee ready to do things around the house, do things with my family."

Big and Getting Bigger

Medical problems and sports-related injuries are particularly acute for linemen, who are big and getting bigger. There are six times as many 300 pounders as there were a dozen years ago. And, they are most likely to suffer cardiovascular disease and joint problems.

"Our study has found there's nearly 50 percent incidence of osteoarthritis in offensive and defensive lineman who played in the NFL," said Guskiewicz.

Concern for Students, Too

Professional football players are not the only ones who should consider the toll the sport puts on their bodies. College and high school players are continuing to get stronger, faster, and bigger, making games not only more competitive, but also more dangerous.

Unfortunately, few students believe they could turn out like former Raider, Kurt Marsh, who stopped counting surgeries for his degenerative arthritis long ago. "I am so grateful for my football success but yes, I am paying a price daily," said Marsh. "Was it worth it? Probably not. Would I do it again? Yes. Go figure."

Despite the aches, the pain, even agony, that's what so many former players say. They'd do it again.

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