Sometimes a Good Idea Emerges from Tragedy

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May 11, 2012 by Stephen

From Peter King’s Monday Morning QB:

Junior obviously had been facing demons for at least 18 months. That’s no longer speculation. People can take pills, run their car off the road and that’s a cry for help. He was crying out for help. Yet he was too proud to ask for it. What I’d like to see done … There is no exit strategy from the NFL. It’s ‘You’re done.’ You don’t even get an apple and a road map. What needs to happen is mandatory counseling. In 15 years as a middle linebacker, I never would have thought of seeing a counselor. I saw one in my divorce, and I just called my counselor today. It can’t be optional, because macho players are taught to be invincible and they’re not going to do it. Make it mandatory.

— Former Junior Seau teammate and veteran middle linebacker Gary Plummer, to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, with one of the best ideas I’ve heard to come out of this tragedy.

In the wake of the tragedy involving the suicide of Junior Seau, I’ve heard on the radio and read on the internet many suggestions of steps that can be taken in football to prevent something like this from happening again. Most of the discussion centers around the effects of concussions, but that is not the only problem that faces professional athletes, especially NFL players. A question that needs to be addressed is, “What happens when you stop playing the game?” One of the best ideas I’ve heard about/read about to emerge from this tragedy is the idea of having a specific plan for when a player becomes a former player. What that looks like, I don’t know.  But, I’m pretty sure it involves some kind of counseling and guidance to prepare a former player for life after football (basketball, baseball, hockey, etc.). After all, a professional athlete lives a life that is so unlike most of the population. The money, the popularity, the adulation, etc. is compressed into a short time frame.  A career, even a good/great one, is short and compressed compared to non-professional athletes.  So much happens so fast, and then it’s over and time to move on with life. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many are not ready for what is next.  I hope, like Seau’s former friend/teammate Gary Plummer, that the NFL (and other sports) come up with an exit strategy for players.

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