Jewish World Review June 11, 2012/ 21 Sivan, 5772
Paying for the hits they took in the NFL . . . three decades ago
By Mitch Albom
Like a lot of former
This past week, a lawsuit was filed consolidating scores of complaints from former players who claim the
Rubick, who says he was not part of the suit, understands their issues. He played tight end for seven seasons with the Lions, from 1982-88, and remembers at least six documented concussions he suffered in his career. Today, if a player has six concussions, he almost certainly is retired.
Rubick played on.
"It was always memory loss," he says. "I would lose 36 hours of my life. I'd come off the field and see my parents and I'd say, 'Hey, when did you guys get here?' And they'd say, 'Rob, we've been staying at your apartment for the last day and a half.'"
The brain is an amazing, awe-inspiring thing. It is also delicate. Slamming it into the turf -- even protected by a helmet and a cranium -- cannot be healthy.
But the damage caused is a matter of debate. We still are learning about how truly dangerous concussions are. Most new evidence suggests we never took them seriously enough. This is why you see tighter rules on helmet-to-helmet hits, and more caution before a player returns to action.
But that is now. What about back then? Does the league have a responsibility to former players who were pushed back out after the birdies stopped chirping?
The players' lawsuit says, in part: "The
"Despite its knowledge ... the
The league, of course, denies culpability and says it does all it can to keep the sport safe. But more and more players are discovering stumbles in their day-to-day life that may well be traced to the pounding they took. Headaches. Dementia.
"One preseason game, I was on punt coverage," Rubick recalls, "and I take five steps and I don't see this guy and he earholes me, side of my head. Just flattens me. I'm dizzy. I walk to the sidelines. And
The costs for retired players
Rubick, who was born in
He is not alone. Plenty of players from the '80s, '70s and earlier never made enough money to live off once football was over. And many now cannot afford the medical coverage required for issues that are popping up.
Rubick and others feel the
Meanwhile, when you talk to guys like Rubick, you hear fear. They wonder what lies ahead. "I try and joke with my kids about it, but they don't think it's funny," Rubick says.
They are gladiators in their 20s, veterans in their 30s, retired in the 40s -- and worried in their 50s.
I ask Rubick if he had it to do all over again, would he play in the
"Ask me in 20 years," he says. "If I'm still here, I'd say yes. If not ..."
You know what they call that?
The other side of glory.
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