Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron seemed determined to return to the NFL next year, but after four concussions he has decided it is time to call it quits.
“I started thinking about concussions too much,” Cameron, 28, told ESPN. “You can’t play football like that.”
The athlete has spent six seasons playing professionally in the NFL, having four diagnosed concussions in that time period. The latest came in September, in a game against the Cleveland Browns. After the injury, Cameron spent hours thinking about his career, his family, and his future.
“If I didn’t get concussions, I’d probably keep playing,” Cameron said. “It’s one of those things. I can’t risk my mental health in the future. I don’t have any symptoms now. I’m perfectly fine. But they can’t tell me with 100 percent certainty that if I keep playing and I get more concussions, that I’m going to be OK.
“I’m not risking that at all. There’s nothing more important than your health. It’s just not worth it to me.”
One of the biggest motivations for Cameron’s decision to retire was his son, Tristan, who just turned eight last weekend. Even with the hectic lifestyle of an NFL player, Cameron has been devoted to his son.
“I want to be there for him,” Cameron said. “And I want more kids, and I want to be present with them. I don’t want them dealing with things that we’ve seen some other guys are dealing with.”
Unlike many of the other NFL players who have retired because of concussions, Cameron isn’t in immediate danger. He has been cleared by a neurologist and shows no signs or symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. But, he doesn’t want to risk that happening in the future.
“Do I want to risk even the slightest chance of having a mental disorder or depression, all these things, for a game that has already given me what I wanted to get out of it? The answer is no,” he said.
As he looks forward, Cameron hopes the NFL continues to make concussion education a priority.
“It’s such an issue in the NFL, and it should be,” Cameron said. “I think the biggest issue is guys were not informed how serious these things can be if unattended. And how serious it is to drink alcohol and take narcotics on these things. You can’t live an unhealthy lifestyle if you have a history of concussions. It’s proven that alcohol and pills and the things that guys get on because of pain and whatnot, these things mess you up, and it’s detrimental to long-term health. You tag along concussions, it’s a whole mess.”
While the risks of brain injuries worries the athlete, Cameron doesn’t blame the NFL for its handling of information about brain injuries.
“They didn’t know,” Cameron said. “I want to say I hope they didn’t know the serious implications of these things. I feel like it was just starting, just on the brink of this coming to light and all the seriousness of these things. Now I feel like seven years later people know how serious this can be. Unfortunately it takes people dying to figure that out. That’s the saddest thing in the world to me.”
Like many parents, Cameron also finds himself torn when considering whether he would let his son participate in the sport that gave his father a career. He says Tristan has already asked to play the sport.
“Let’s be real here,” he said. “Football is the greatest sport. I really believe that. It’s the most difficult. You learn the most about yourself in football. It’s a hard sport. You have to be very comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“All that being said, I really do not want him playing. If he’s playing the right way and he’s playing in pee wee and high school, that’s fine. But I know what goes on and the hits you take. Everything past the high school level gets more serious, and it’s not as much, I would say, fun anymore after high school.”