As reported by the Mercury news, Ken Stabler, the late, great Raiders quarterback who died of colon cancer in July, might make news Saturday night when he’s considered for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.
But Wednesday, Stabler served as a reminder of pro football’s growing dark side.
The news that Stabler’s brain showed an advanced stage of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, didn’t come as a shock to those among his Raiders family. But it did reignite concerns about what might lie ahead for many former players.
“It doesn’t surprise me because he played in an era, and I played in an era before him where we weren’t protected,” former Raiders coach and NFL quarterback Tom Flores said when reached by phone Wednesday. “We got hit in the head all the time. It was a common thing for a defensive linemen to whack you in the head.”
In an HBO “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”, legendary player and coach, Mike Ditka says “the risk is worse than the reward” of playing football, telling Gumbel he would dissuade children from participating in the sport.
Former Bears center Mike Pyle, the center and captain of the 1963 title-winning Chicago team, died in July at the age of 76 and on Monday was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the neurodegenerative disease found in athletes who have been subjected to repeated head trauma.
Concerns over the long-term health effects of playing football have led many current and former athletes (from Joe Namath to LeBron James) to declare that they would not let their children participate in the sport. Pyle’s former Bears roommate
Mike Ditka’s advice for grandchildren: Take up golf.
Mike Ditka shared the sobering details of a visit he had with Pyle before his death (“It was like talking to a child“), and told Chicago Tribune reporter Jared Hopkins that while he wouldn’t prohibit his kids from playing football, he would try to steer them toward a safer sport like golf.
“Well, let’s say you’re a father right now, an you’ve got a [young] kid. So what do you tell them? People ask me the question. I would never discourage my son from playing football or baseball or anything else, but I would probably say ‘Hey, listen, you ought to try golf.’ Seriously. And I think that’s what’s going to happen to a degree. And that’s just the way it’s going to be.”