There is absolutely nothing in life that matters more than your own personal health — Without it, frankly, nothing else matters. Health is a very sensitive subject to talk about, and quite honestly, it’s something that I would rather prefer to keep private myself. But being a blogger and strong proponent of the early FI lifestyle, part of me feels a strong moral responsibility and obligation to spread the word as best I can. When it comes to health, the ravages of overwork are something that I know about all too well… I’ve been battling with Adrenal Fatigue/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for a number of years now…
So, I learned very early on in my 20s not to take health for granted. Today, I try to live each day to the fullest and I appreciate everything that I’ve got 100%. Definitely, I try my best not to take my friends and family for granted.
With all that said, it’s been very gratifying for me to observe all the posts made by the mainstream media over the last few years (trust me, I rarely say that), addressing the topic of health and how it impacts professional athletes. Not too long ago, it was regarded as a “badge of honor” in macho, testosterone-fueled leagues such as the National Football League (NFL) for players to not only play through pain, but to never reveal any possible signs of “weakness” to anyone.
Keep it all to yourself, bottled up inside… forever and ever.
But over time, we’ve seen first-hand how well that’s worked out… Year after year, you would read another news article piece about some former athlete who seemingly “had it all” in life commit suicide seemingly out of the blue… Many suffered through deep bouts of depression, anxiety, addiction, and more. Perhaps there was more going on behind the scenes than the public was made aware of?
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is now being studied aggressively, and in most recent years, new research has helped to better explain what really may be going on inside.
CTE, a form of tauopathy, is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have had a severe blow to the head. The disease was previously called dementia pugilistica (DP), i.e. “punch-drunk”, as it was initially found in those with a history of boxing. CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes participating in American football, association football, ice hockey, professional wrestling, stunt performing, bull riding, bicycle motocross, rodeo, and other contact sports who have experienced repeated concussions or other brain trauma. Its presence in domestic violence is also being investigated. It can affect high school players who have played for just a few years.
These days, the NFL mandates a concussion testing protocol that requires any athlete suspected to have suffered a serious head injury in game to first exit the field and pass a series of questions if they are to return back to the game.
Players who are suspected of suffering a concussion are assessed by their team’s medical staff. The team physician first reviews a six-item checklist outlining findings that necessitate a player’s immediate removal from the game. This checklist includes the more obvious symptoms of concussion: loss of consciousness, unresponsiveness, confusion, amnesia and other concerning symptoms. The team doctor then administers the rest of the sideline concussion assessment tool in order to further assess for concussion. This sideline test includes the same tests performed as part of the pre-season baseline concussion assessment, as well as some additional questions. Like the preseason evaluation, the test measures, memory, concentration and balance. as well as measuring how quickly and thoroughly the player recalls words given to them at least five minutes earlier. As in the preseason examination, the team doctor asks players to name the month, date, day of week, year and time. The additional questions include specific sideline orientation questions that ask players to identify the venue, quarter of game, who scored most recently, the team’s previous opponent and whether the team won or lost its most recent game. This process takes about 8-12 minutes.
Beginning this year, a neuro-trauma expert physician unaffiliated with an NFL team will be available on the sideline as an extra set of eyes. He can be consulted by the NFL medical team or NFL player.
NFL regulations require a player diagnosed with a possible concussion to leave the field for the locker room. Medical personnel remain with the player for the remainder of the game. Team physicians determine whether the player’s condition is stable enough to send him home — with instructions that include physical and cognitive rest, avoiding certain medications and alcohol, and a plan for follow up care including phone numbers to call if there are any questions or concerns.
Definitely, these measures are helping us to move in the right direction. Yes, sports like the NFL are meant to be played by “gladiators” but c’mon, these are real lives and human beings that we are talking about here! These athletes have kids and families to come home to, you know? “Leaving it all on the field” so that they can destroy their futures in the process is just plain STUPID! In this day and age, we ought to have evolved enough as a society and civilization to look well beyond such simplistic viewpoints.
Bottom line, it’s just a game! At the end of the season, you get a stinkin’ trophy for all your sacrifice… That’s not a matter of life or death. But repeated injuries to the head are!
The good news is that people are slowly catching on… Even the current players themselves.
Today, Husain Abdullah, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs announced his retirement from the NFL after playing for 7 seasons:
Props to Mr. Abdullah for recognizing the realities of his own personal situation. He walks away from the game at the ripe young age of 30, citing “personal health” as being first and foremost of importance.
Last year, perennial all-pro linebacker, Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers did exactly the same thing.
The veteran reiterated those remarks on Tuesday, implying that his medical woes would prevent him from playing at the elite level that he demanded from himself.
“As much as I’d love to win a Super Bowl and to bring number six back here, I have to be honest,” Willis said. “I have to tell y’all that if I don’t have what I know I need to give to my teammates and the organization the best chance to win, then I can’t be out there doing that.
“And to be sitting on the sideline just collecting a paycheck, I feel like that would be wrong. So I stand up here today with that conviction. I understand the magnitude of what I’m doing today.”
To the same extent, Willis also voiced concerns about his quality of life after football if he continued to play through the pain.
“Honestly, I pay attention to guys when they’re finished playing, walking around like they’ve got no hips and they can’t play with their kids. They can barely walk,” Willis said. “People see that and they feel sorry, but they don’t realize it’s because he played a few extra years.
“For me, there’s more to my life than football. It has provided an amazing platform for me to build on, but it’s my health first and everything else just kind of makes sense around it.”
Even the “best of the best” are sensible enough to walk away…
But don’t think for just one second that what goes on in sports doesn’t impact the common everyday person either! Sure, we aren’t the ones to be running around at full speed, launching our bodies like missiles into other people, but just like most things in life, there is both yin and yang. Equal and opposite. Night and day. Black and white.
Yes, athletes abuse their physical bodies on a regular basis, but we do too! Whereas they are over-exerting themselves, we are most likely under-exerting ourselves! If too much exercise can be bad, don’t you also think that too little exercise can be just as detrimental?
Lack of exercise and movement, zero to little exposure to sunlight, constant stress and pressure to excel all the time, and the “work around the clock” routine we’ve all become so familiar with also has a bunch of nasty consequences as well!
Accelerated aging. High blood pressure. Heart disease. Joint pain. Chronic Fatigue. Etc.
At least with athletes, the season eventually ends and they are awarded a few months off for rest and relaxation… What does the everyday person on the street get? 2-3 weeks off each year, at most…
Yes, I’m comparing apples with oranges, but it’s tough in both situations… Look, human beings aren’t f’in robots! We weren’t meant to work from 9-5 until the day we die! We get sick…We break down… We all need time to really recharge the batteries from time to time… and some of us (like me), need to replenish our fuel cells way more often than even that.
For those of you out there who can hack it, that’s wonderful, more power to you! Keep at it if health permits and it makes you happy!
But the “game” is definitely not meant for everyone…
These days, if an athlete can retire after 5-10 years (for the health of it) and be met with praise and accolades by their peers and the media, well, at some point, the same should happen for us everyday folks too. Right now, if we retire early for “health reasons”, everyone looks at you like you’re insane!
In my engineering days, I used to frequent my fair share of acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, etc., and I’m telling you, everytime I went in for treatment, the practitioner would more or less tell me that, “You corporate workaholics are a dime a dozen! Every last one of you has a slew of health problems. It’s you folks who are keeping me in business!”
Health is a taboo subject to talk about, but it affects all of us… and so many of us are needlessly suffering.
I’ve seen way too many people get sick, and refuse to do anything about their situation for me to just sit back, shut up, and do nothing about it.
I’m writing this to tell you — Yes, you do have a choice! You don’t have to live the corporate lifestyle that everyone is trying to jam down your throat forever, if it’s not meant for you. Everyone’s situation is unique, but I checked out of the game for good at 31 for health’s sake! For me, I realized what I really valued in life and said, “Screw what society thinks!” I intend to live life on my own terms!
To me, a luxury sedan is exactly that… a luxury. Breathing in fresh air and being exposed to sunlight is NOT a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity.
None of my employers have ever been willing to give me a decent dose of what I deemed to be critical for optimal health, so ultimately I had no problem saying, “Peace out!”
Patrick Willis said it best for me:
“For me, there’s more to my life than
football engineering. It has provided an amazing platform for me to build on, but it’s my health first and everything else just kind of makes sense around it.”