A lot of conversations and opinions have developed in the sports world regarding the sudden and seemingly premature retirement of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Andrew Luck is 29 years of age and has been plagued with injuries during his time playing football, both professionally and collegiately at Stanford. Some of his professional injuries include:
» torn cartilage in 2 ribs
» partially torn abdomen
» a lacerated kidney that left him peeing blood
» at least 1 concussion
» a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder
» calf/ankle issue
Luck mentioned the physical strain, emotional voids from constant rehabs and recoverys, along with quality of life concerns post-football guided the toughest decision of his life, to retire from the game he loves and has devoted a large chunk of his life to.
While I will concede, the timing of this decision and financial aspects are certainly up for debate and could have been done differently. One thing that I will not entertain are the notions of weakness, “soft” or cowardice towards Luck and his decision. We can all play the “who hurts more or ‘I’ve been through ABC’…doesn’t matter. Luck’s decision to retire highlights exemplary self-awareness and is the epitome of courage in the “hyper masculine” world that is football.
He and he alone, knows the true mental, emotional and physical toll the game has taken on him. He is also the person that has to live with himself and his body for the rest of his life. In the face of dissenting opinions, ridiculed, mockery and in some eyes disgrace, Luck still chose himself and should be commended for that.
Personal Note: As a teen who embodied the ideologies of this brut, hyper-masculinity and chauvinism, I firmly believe we seriously need to get over these machismo philosophies inferring that men shouldn’t feel, especially pain whether it’s physical, emotional, mentally etc. It is extremely damaging and the consequences traverse all other aspects of life. Yes, I believe fortitude and toughness does imply preserving in the face of pain, fighting back when life knocks you down, being resilient, tenacious and all of that; hell, it’s how I live my life. But more importantly, toughness is standing up for yourself/your well-being and holding true to your beliefs regardless of what dissenters or traditional models have established as “norms”. You gotta take care of yourself first. I digress.
Football is a contact sport, and no one who plays the sport at any level, are ever 100% healthy while playing, most not after playing either. The sport is extremely taxing on the body and the long term impacts are just being better understood in more recent years. It is a violent sport, and should be treated as such. Ironically, football is a magical game that teaches so many lessons, develops character and courage in so many ways, and can truly bring out the best in a person, on and off the field.
As a former football player throughout my youth, high-school and college, I attained a laundry list of injuries, most damaging being double digit concussions and debilitating knee strains and tears. These injures affect me in some capacity every day and get increasingly worse each year. Yet, I am in the majority. Practically every player has lingering issues that affect them and the longer one plays (higher the levels), the greater risk and more severe these injuries become as they’re compounded over time. Thankfully my injuries are not completely life altering, well at least not yet. I consider them the taxes for being blessed to play a game that gave me so much and I wouldn’t change any of it or do a thing differently; (except beat the Mount, damn HS Turkey Bowls).
However, my situation isn’t the case for everyone and I’m fully aware of the long-term impact that brain trauma like concussions and multiple tears and lacerations can have for life after we hang up the pads. Every year we’re learning more of the deleterious impact that repetitive brain trauma can have and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. From CTE down, there are somber adverse health effects from playing football and they should be considered very stringently when judging another’s decision to participate or not.
I loved playing football and still love the entertainment value it brings as a fan. Understanding the game’s detrimental impact first hand gives me a great appreciate and admiration for people who play long term AND those fortunate to walk away on their own accord.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what any of us think, whether we played for 20 years or never stepped on the field. When it comes to matters of health, quality of life and family, the only opinion that matters is the person(s) directly involved.
Whether he ever plays again or not, I’m proud of Andrew Luck for taking a stand for his well-being and shedding greater light on the importance of self-care.