A Look Inside the Mind of a Retired NFL Player

Imagine a place where you’re all alone. It’s dark. You have no idea what’s going on, but at the same time you’re in the moment and can’t escape it. You’re slowly going crazy, and you know that you’re going crazy, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

Sounds like a disturbing, low, frustrating, depressing place. But that just might be the place that a lot of retired NFL players find themselves in. That’s the place that former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley, just 37, described to U-T San Diego this week.

According to the article, Turley was diagnosed with two concussions during his eight-year career. He told the paper that his family has no history of mental illness, but acknowledged that he takes medication to help curb the suicidal thoughts that he’s been having.

I’ve written on these pages before about the studies that have been done about NFL players playing through pain and the fact that sports leagues aren’t doing enough to curb head injuries, and Turley’s account is just further proof that the NFL has a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

We’ve heard posthumously about the struggles that former NFLers faced because of the concussions they suffered that went undiagnosed, and some retired players have shed a little light on the forgetfulness and depression-like symptoms, but none have tried to go into as much detail as Turley. And the best way to explain it is depressing and disturbing.

Let him do the splainin’:

No one in my family has ever gone crazy and killed themselves or thought about that. I have. It’s not a thought that is fleeting. It’s a thought that goes away when I’m on my medication, and the thought of doing a lot of crazy things as well and making unbelievable decisions.

He told the paper of his struggles knowing that he’s going to suffer from mental illness, and the impact on his family (he has two kids, a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter):

I’ve got as good of a chance as anybody of going down that road into crazy land or into super crazy disease land. I’ve got every opportunity to probably be in the same boat in the future, and I don’t know how far in the future. It’s very, very disturbing, very frustrating, very stressful to deal with, especially having children.

He also talked about the role Junior Seau’s death played in his decision to call the NFL Life Line—a confidential support service launched after Seau’s suicide—and how he plans to help change the game (aside from donating his brain to medical research after he is gone):

It was imperative that I did. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just a moment where you’re lost. You’re completely gone. You don’t understand the things that you’re doing, you’re pissed at yourself because you’re doing the things that you’re doing, and you have little control, it seems, over it.

Even in the moment, you’re saying, ‘Why is this happening? What is going on?’ But you’re still in it. It’s a weird thing. I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s frustrating to no end, and that frustration can lead you to some pretty low places. Only those who have gotten to the point where they picked up a phone can probably understand.

I am on a mission. My mission is to fix this game for my son. … I think it’s going to be inevitable that he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

I feel nothing but pain for these men and what they continue to go through after putting their bodies on the line and helping make the wealthy, wealthier.

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