In recent years, numerous studies have highlighted a link between head trauma and neurological ailments such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has taken steps to improve player safety so that future generations will not endure the often debilitating effects of head trauma and concussion. Companies – including several here in Maryland – are developing technologies and products to protect players, count hits to the head, and assess head trauma and concussion at the point of impact. Researchers are studying a possible genetic link that may predispose concussed players to the most devastating consequences of head trauma.
Yet some complain that rule changes to protect players will turn the game into flag football. Some contend that protective measures detract from the game. Some claim that the so-called exorbitant salaries of generations of pro football players somehow justify the long-term impact. And some – like the Atlanta sports radio DJs who, on Monday, mocked former NFL player Steve Gleason, who has ALS – make light of the consequences.
I had the privilege of meeting Steve – along with Team Gleason and some of Steve’s New Orleans Saints teammates – at the Super Bowl in New Orleans last February. Despite the fact that he can no longer speak and uses a computer to generate a voice, Steve is an incredibly articulate, introspective and thoughtful person whose voice transcends his physical limitations. With his uplifting spirit, his positive attitude, and his efforts through Team Gleason to address ALS, Steve Gleason is an inspiration.
This morning, we learned that Steve has accepted the Atlanta DJs’ apology with these words, “We have all made mistakes in this life. How we learn from our mistakes is the measure of who we are.”
I’d argue that the measure of who we are is how we handle adversity – in that regard, Steve demonstrated the type of person he is. He has asked that this unfortunate incident be transformed into an educational process to gain a better understanding of ALS and more funding for research into the disease.
Fourth & Goal has supported such efforts through The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins Hospital and through the Brigance Brigade, founded by O.J. and Chanda Brigance to equip, encourage and empower people living with ALS. Please consider contributing to these organizations and to Team Gleason to make a difference in the lives of those dealing with ALS and, we hope and pray, to find a cure for this disease.
Don’t be one of those who stands on the sidelines and watches while someone else makes a difference.
“Its clear to me that, on a national & global scale, ALS is not understood, which is part of why its under funded and largely ignored. In the past 36 hours lots of people have been talking. Lets talk about this… There are zero treatments for ALS. If you take any action as a result of this event, I prefer it to be action to end ALS. See what we are doing to change that @ teamgleason.org. SG” – Steve Gleason
President, Fourth & Goal
Baltimore Colts, 1972-1981
San Diego Chargers, 1982-1983