Concussions in football, as a subject, will come to define this era of the sport much in the same way PEDs defined an era of baseball. Sadly, the reporting on the subject, too, might get to the point of saturation — in which people have heard enough about it and no longer wish to constantly sort through their feelings while watching a game.
That would be a shame because of stories like the one ex-Gopher and ex-NFL player Ben Utecht continues to tell. Much has been written already about Utecht’s five concussions, which forced him to retire from the NFL. But now he is testifying before Congress, trying to help those with traumatic brain injuries, and his story just keeps getting more heartbreaking. Per ABCNews.com:
Retired NFL player Ben Utecht has written a letter to his wife and daughters for the day he can no longer remember who they are, he told Congress today.
“I wrote the letter on a plane ride home with the brim of my hat over my eyes to hide the tears as they began to flow,” said Utecht, 32, who was a tight end for the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals before suffering a career-ending concussion in 2009.
Utecht said he spent eight months in rehab battling dizziness, amnesia, sleeplessness and night sweats after the injury, which was his fifth documented concussion. Now, his memory is fading away.
“What’s my greatest fear?” he said to Congress. “It’s to be trapped inside the coffin of my mind. To wake up one morning and not remember the faces and names of the people I cherish the most.”
That’s a 32-year-old man already losing his memory and preparing for a day that could be coming far sooner than old age in which he will not be able to remember his loved ones.
Throughout the rise in concussion stories in recent years, we’ve read tales of players who are struggling in the same way and still say they would do it all over again. That’s the seduction of the money, adrenaline and competition of playing a sport at its highest level.
Maybe it’s that sentiment — their lives, their bodies, their decisions — that collectively allows us to keep watching on Sundays. But stories like Utecht’s can break your heart all the same.