Since the end of the season the number of current and former professional football players speaking out about brain injury and the NFL has dwindled to the short comments some higher profile players are forced to give to over-eager paparazzi, but this month a few retired grid iron vets have worked to spread awareness in the name of Brain Injury Awareness Month.
Brian Westbrook is a former All-Pro running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, but at the age of 33, he already suffers short-term memory loss which he traces back to at least two concussions during his nine-year career. He can’t remember names, recall facts, or retain new information within minutes of learning it according to MPR News, but he fears the worst is yet to come.
If it wasn’t for those concussions, Westbrook might still be enjoying the twilight of an illustrious career, but instead he is joining the growing number of former NFL players advocating for brain injury awareness, education, and prevention. More than anything he wants athletes of all ages to understand the incredible danger of continuing to play through a head injury.
“I thought I took enough time off to rest and recuperate. I thought I was healed completely,” Westbrook said at a panel discussion as part of the “Concussion Conundrum” event at Villanova University. “But I got hit, I got my bell rung. I was out for another few weeks with another concussion.”
To start to solve the problem, Westbrook believes it will take more than medical advancements and intervention. Instead, there needs to be a change in the culture of sports where winning comes at any costs, including devastating brain injuries. Players like Westbrook will do anything they can to get back on the field and “help the team” and it took Westbrook learning first-hand just how dangerous that mentality is. He just hopes young athletes can learn from him, instead of learning how he did.