Life after the NFL
With the football season fast approaching, many avid fans have already started to break out their jerseys and prepare to watch the summer coverage of minicamps and scrimmages. For many rookie players these minicamps are the first glimpse of the amenities that NFL players are given by their teams: medical treatment, free food, security, free gear, personal assistants and the list goes on. However, once these players retire after playing for years and are stripped of these amenities, life catches up to them.
The first problem most players face are injures. In the NFL, injures are bound to happen. From ACL tears to bone fractures to paralysis- the game is brutal and everyone who plays knows the risk of playing. However, in the NFL, getting injured and missing games could cost a player their job. Instead of sitting out and trying to heal their bodies, most players opt to take painkillers in copious amounts. Since toughness is celebrated in the NFL, these players’ actions are glorified and they are celebrated as being able to play through pain and provide for their team.
“Are you injured or are you hurt?” is a common question asked in the game of football when a player goes down with an injury. What this question really means is: are you tough or are you a wimp? Since a player’s value is based off of their ability to perform on the field, many professionals choose to take painkillers and continue the game. The rhetoric of toughness and being able to perform in games enslaves NFL players in the vicious cycle of playing through pain. Week after week. team doctors and trainers give out hundreds of painkillers to their players. In 2012 alone, teams prescribed an average of 5,777 doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and 2,270 doses of controlled substances to their players.
These painkillers, like most drugs, are addictive. After players retire, their free source of painkillers goes away. However, they have a bank account full of money. So, to deal with their addictions to painkillers and their injuries that haven’t been properly treated, many spend their money on drugs and develop substance abuse problems.
It doesn’t help that most of these players didn’t receive much of an education either. Because most NFL players focus their whole lifes around football and trying to make it to the NFL, they don’t focus as much as other students on their education. The intense schedules of college athletes causes their schoolwork to shift from focusing on education to eligibility, doing things such as putting athletes into easier majors and majors that are barely even majors in the first place like General Studies. These colleges’ main focus is to win football games, so they don’t care about these players’ education. Often these schools even recruit players that are in no way able to do college work.
Since most of the NFL players went through the initial route of playing NCAA ball before going pro, they come out the system without an education. With no education, injuries, and substance abuse problems, many players succumb to depression and commit suicide. Many don’t have to desire to live out the rest of their lives as husks of their former selves.