As we say goodbye to another NFL season, the inevitable stories about the devastating effects of CTE appear, showing the devastation that America’s favorite sport takes on its players. In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Emily Kelly, wife of former NFL player Rob Kelly, tells the story of her husband’s struggles since his retirement.
What makes Kelly’s story interesting is that it addresses the primary issue that NFL-defenders raise: the players knew the risks. She writes: “Professional football is a brutal sport, he knew that. But he loved it anyway. And he accepted the risks of bruises and broken bones. What he didn’t know was that along with a battered body can come a battered mind.”
The good news is that after years and years of denial, the NFL has begun to recognize its role in the health of the players affected by multiple brain traumas. Even better news for Emily Kelly is that she is not alone. That is, she has found a supportive group of other ex-players’ wives with whom to share her family’s struggles. One cannot underestimate the importance of emotional support, because feelings of isolation and shame are powerful chains that keep people from sharing their stories and getting needed help.
Kelly feels that the public still does not know the widespread impact of brain damage on football players and hopes that her story, as well as the stories of others, will help shed light on the issue. “These men chose football, but they didn’t choose brain damage.” Slowly but surely, the public will become aware, and hopefully, the NFL will respond appropriately.