Sports legend Bo Jackson told USA Today Sports that if he had known about the head-injury risks football poses to players back in the ’80s and ’90s he would never have played football.
“If I knew back then what I know now,” Mr. Jackson told USA Today Sports, “I would have never played football. Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody,” he said, alluding to the NFL’s leadership.
In 2011, a group of former NFL players filed a lawsuit against the League, accusing it of concealing its knowledge of brain-injury risks from players. The plaintiffs claimed the NFL knew about the serious dangers of concussions for nearly 100 years, but withheld that information from players, coaches, trainers, and the general public until June 2010.
The iconic athlete, who won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn and went on play football for the Los Angeles Raiders and baseball for the Kansas City Royals, is now so dead-set against football that he wouldn’t allow his own children to play.
“The game has gotten so violent, so rough. We’re so much more educated on this CTE stuff [chronic traumatic encephalopathy], there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today,” Mr. Jackson told USA Today. “Even though I love the sport, I’d smack them in the mouth if they said they wanted to play football.
“I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.'”
Mr. Jackson’s football career ended after he suffered a serious hip injury while playing against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1991. Although the hip injury ruined his football career, it may have saved his brain. After recovering from the injury, he went on to play baseball for several seasons with the Chicago White Sox and the California Angels.
Mr. Jackson, now 54, remains the only person to be selected as both an MLB All-Star and an NFL Pro Bowler.
The NFL estimates that 6,000 former players, or nearly 30 percent, could develop some form of degenerative brain disorder such as CTE, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or dementia because of repeated concussions and other head trauma.
Last year, the League paid $1 billion to settle thousands of concussion complaints filed by former players diagnosed with brain injuries linked to repeated concussions.