Over the past few years, more and more studies about concussions in the NFL have been coming out. Not only have past and current players suffered from concussions, but they have also gotten CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain linked to a history of repetitive brain trauma.
Players are beginning to understand the significance of this disease and the harm it can do, especially when paired with other injuries, and players are retiring early. So far, in under one month of the NFL offseason, Calvin Johnson (30), Marshawn Lynch (29), Jerod Mayo (29) and most recently Heath Miller (33) have all announced their retirement from the NFL.
“It is weird enough that the guys I grew up watching like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are winding down their careers, but now even the stars that are in the middle of their careers are calling it quits,” said senior Joe Venturino.
Johnson was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2007 with the second overall pick and has been dominant as receiver ever since. In nine seasons, Johnson racked up 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns, as he was one of the top receivers in the league year in and year out.
Lynch was taken 12th overall in the same draft as Johnson by the Buffalo Bills, but really thrived with the Seattle Seahawks. He had been a top-five running back in the league for the past four seasons, until he was hit with the injury bug in 2015. In nine seasons, he ran for 9,112 yards, 74 scores, played in two straight Super Bowls and won it all in the 2013-2014 season.
Mayo was taken 10th overall by the New England Patriots in 2008 and was a force at the inside linebacker position in his first five seasons. He had over 100 total tackles in four of those five years, was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 and was a first team All-Pro in 2010. Although he played in all 16 regular season games, he was hurt in the playoffs this season and finished the season on the injured-reserve list for the third straight year.
All three of these players were dominant in their respective position, but worried that their injury history may have taken its toll on their bodies. Maybe the fear of a possible concussion and CTE diagnosis got to them. In the last couple of years, there have been multiple deaths of former NFL players who ended up being victims of CTE. Junior Seau committed suicide at the age of 43 and was diagnosed with Stage 2 CTE. Frank Gifford, who passed away last summer, also showed signs of CTE, as did Ken Stabler, who passed away this summer as well.