Last week ESPN finally showed the world their documentary League of Denial which took aim at the way the NFL has handled brain injuries and player safety within their league with seemingly shady tactics.
Amid accusations of actively attacking scientists publishing papers with unfavorable findings, obscuring the truth from players, refusing to answer questions, and even sexism, there are a few moments of the documentary which grab your attention without delving into the politics of the league. One of those moments is the story of Troy Aikman and the worst concussion he suffered throughout his career.
Not only could Aikman not remember the events of the game he was injured in, he couldn’t remember the conversations he was having. The real life inspiration for Jerry Maguire, Leigh Steinberg was with Aikman while he was in the hospital, and Aikman turned to him to try to understand what was happening. The problem was, Aikman couldn’t retain Steinberg’s answers. Every time it would seem Aikman understood, he would begin asking the exact same questions he had asked just minutes before.
It is an absolutely frightening story, especially for those who saw it unfold first hand. This event is what single-handedly inspired Steinberg to begin to focus on traumatic brain injury in the NFL, and sums up how quickly the brain’s proper functioning can be undone. However, in the documentary, the former OU Sooner and Dallas Cowboy, Hall of Famer never got to say a word about his injury.
Sporting News reporter Rayven Tirado reached out to Aikman following the airing of the documentary so he could give his opinion.
When asked if he would do everything the same again, Aikman answered, “I would. The answer for that is because I haven’t had any symptoms since retiring from the game. I’ve gone and I’ve seen specialists. I’ve been tested extensively and everything has checked out just fine.”
It should be noted, that was not the only brain injury Aikman suffered in his career. Just like most professional football players, Aikman has had multiple concussions, but he is one former player lucky enough to not be seeing any trouble signs. He isn’t the only one, but the over 4,200 former NFL players who recently settled for $765 million show there are plenty of players who aren’t so lucky, and Aikman is aware of that.
Despite his health and willingness to do it all again, Aikman isn’t free of concern. He has previously said he would like to know exactly what the NFL knew and was or wasn’t telling players, but he also isn’t as sure about the sports future, at least on a personal level. While he would be willing to take the risk again, he isn’t so sure about putting others in that position.
He told Tirado, “I do not have a son; if I had a son, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage him from playing football, but I don’t know that I would encourage him to play either.”
He continued, saying, “I don’t know what the data show, but I haven’t sensed there’s been a reduction in head injuries. With that in mind, that’s concerning. As long as we’re having contact and as long as there are collisions, there’s going to be head injuries.”