Inside the Story: Head injuries and the future of football
On Sunday, almost all of us will be gathered around the TV watching the Broncos and Panthers go head-to-head in Super Bowl 50.
Amidst the pageantry and celebration, some may wonder about the future of football; and a decline in future participation because of head injuries.
Concussions have gotten a lot of attention in recent years, and many parents have decided to hold their kids out of football because of them.
"It's not worth those few minutes of glory. Those few years of glory, to lose yourself, your identity, your drive. It's just not worth it."
Former NFL lineman Brent Boyd's story is becoming all too familiar -- NFL players gone from the game, and lost in life because of head injuries.
Boyd retired after 7 years with the Minnesota Vikings.
He had graduated from UCLA with honors, was accepted into law school, and his future after football looked bright. Then, it went dark.
Headaches, depression, memory loss, fatigue -- the hulk of a man that everyone once looked up to found himself being looked down upon.
"To be told, 'You're lazy,' or 'It's a character issue,' or 'What the hell's wrong with you' It wasn't until 1999 that anyone connected the dots and asked me if I ever had a concussion. I thought, 'Well, nobody labeled it that,' but hell yeah. I was knocked out. I lost my eyesight. I guess those were concussions," Boyd said.
Boyd was on the forefront of the lawsuit against the NFL claiming the league hid the dangers of concussions and rushed players back onto the field before their brains had time to heal. Since he filed suit, around 6,000 other former players have joined him.
A settlement was reached and -- in recent years -- the NFL has changed the rules to try and prevent head injuries, penalizing helmet-to-helmet blows, and other dangerous tackles.
For Boyd, it's too little, too late.
"I've been on disability for 17 years now because of concussions. Headaches are constant, Vertigo It's just a miserable life," Boyd said.
Parents have taken notice of Boyd's story and the stories of countless other NFL stars, many now weighing the benefits and the risks of letting their child play football.
Dr. Susan Park fields the question all the time.
"Whether they do play football or another contact sport, again, that's an individual question that the parents would have to make. But I recommend they get as much information they can about what does happen with a concussion [or] with a brain injury. How does that affect a child long term," Dr. Park said.
"The focus now is teaching technique with less contact, and doing some smart things in practice," Mike Herman, Commissioner of Reno Pop Warner, said.
Youth football leagues now have mandated rule changes that limit contact in practice and are trying to make the game as safe as possible so kids can get the benefits that come along with it.
"That grind that you went through with 50 guys every year, it really shapes people for a really long time. You can get that from other places, but the memories myself and others [formed], you'd love for your kid to have that same experience," Boyd said.
Boyd acknowledges the benefits of going to battle on the football field; but says for all football gave him, it took away much more.
"I don't put myself in a position to tell parents what to do; but I want them to be educated. If it was my kid, I will tell them. I would never let them play football," Boyd added.
Boyd says he will continue his fight against the NFL and do what he can to try and make sure the older players who built the league are being taken care of.