Brett Favre: “God Only Knows The Toll” From NFL Concussions

October 26, 2013
by Jason M. Breslow Digital Editor

In this Sept. 19, 2010, file photo, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre walks to the sideline after throwing an interception against the Miami Dolphins during an NFL football game in Minneapolis. The NFL says it is reviewing allegations involving the Vikings' Brett Favre, who the website Deadspin says sent racy messages and photos to a former sideline reporter while he played for the New York Jets. (AP Photo/Andy Blenkush, File) (AP Photo/Andy Blenkush, File)

You can watch League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis here.

Less than three years since retiring, legendary quarterback Brett Favre has become one of the most high profile players to acknowledge he has experienced health problems stemming from repeated concussions in the NFL.

Favre – who over two decades was sacked 525 times, more than any other NFL quarterback – says he has started to lose his memory and fears the damage to his brain will get worse.

“I don’t remember my daughter playing soccer, playing youth soccer one summer. I don’t remember that,” Favre told the Washington sports station WSPZ-AM on Thursday. “This was pretty shocking to me that I couldn’t remember my daughter playing youth soccer, just one summer, I think. I remember her playing basketball, I remember her playing volleyball, so kind of think maybe she only played a game or two. I think she played eight. So that’s a little bit scary to me. For the first time in 44 years, that put a little fear in me.”

With his comments, Favre joins a chorus of players to admit suffering lapses in memory; some have said that concussions have left them battling a range of other symptoms, including depression, bouts of rage and even suicidal impulses.

“I think it takes a lot for him to acknowledge that at this point in his life because there are a lot of guys in his position who would just stay quiet,” Harry Carson, a Hall of Fame linebacker who played for the New York Giants told FRONTLINE. “The culture of the game is you do not acknowledge your weaknesses … as a former player, we kind of take that into our personal lives.”

Thousands of former players have accused the league of concealing information showing that head injuries can lead to brain damage, and in some cases, the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE, as the condition is known, has been linked to repeated blows to the head, and has been discovered in the brains of several dozen deceased players, most notably the legendary San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau.

In August, the NFL reached a $765 million settlement with roughly 4,500 former players who were suing the league over their head injuries. The settlement ensured league officials would not have to testify under oath about their knowledge of any potential links between football and brain trauma. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS News in September, “There was no admission of guilt. There was no recognition that anything was caused by football.”

But a recent FRONTLINE investigation into the NFL’s concussion crisis found that as early as the 1990s, the NFL’s retirement board had awarded disability payments to at least three former players after concluding that football caused their brain injuries.

With the concussion issue increasingly in the spotlight, players past and present are showing a growing willingness to address the once taboo subject of brain injuries. In FRONTLINE’s investigation, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young said he too worried about the potential long-term dangers caused by concussions.

“The thing I fear most for players in football is what they’re calling the micro-concussions, these things that happen daily, the things that you don’t even necessarily notice, practices, games, linemen, running backs, linebackers, just the nature of the game,” said Young. “… You talk about a nefarious injury, one that you never feel until it’s too late. Just when I look back over 30 years associated with football, that’s the thing that is most alarming to me.”

Following the FRONTLINE probe, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman told The Sporting News that if he had a son, “I don’t know that I would encourage him to play.”

In Favre’s case, the 44-year-old quarterback was responding to questions about attempts by the St. Louis Rams to lure him out of retirement. “It’s flattering,” said Favre, “but there’s no way I’m going to do that.” After 20 years in the NFL, he said, “God only knows the toll that will be taken as time goes by.”


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