The League

Brent Boyd
Player Health Advocate

Brent Boyd

Former Minnesota Viking and founder of Dignity After Football

The NFL Ignored Us

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NFL concussions and the tragic ramifications to countless NFL retirees are my passion, and my curse. That's why I founded Dignity After Football, with Kenny Easley, Joe Kapp, Roman Gabriel, and Big Ed White, plus one of our country's greatest heroes from Vietnam, Col. Jack Kelly.

I want justice and dignity for these players and their wives and families, including my own family. I am, according to Social Security, totally disabled exclusively from my NFL concussions. The NFL agrees I am totally disabled, but claims concussions have CANNOT NOT HAVE long term effects.

Yes, you read that right.

The Groom Law Group, who makes that most ridiculous medical claim, overlooks the White House at 1701 Pennsylvania Ave... try fighting that when you are penniless.

We expect De Smith, who offers so much hope and a new state of mind in he NFLPA, to remove these remaining cancers from the Bush/Upshaw era. It's time to apply the law fairly and with transparency. Groom Law and the entire NFL retirement board should be fired immediately, or show a drastic change in their practices. Proud men who built the NFL, now with post-concussion, and their families go hungry and suffer needlessly, all because of the shameless greed and corruption of the retirement board and greedy NFL owners. NFL. Goodell is chairman of this disability board.

Football is the most violent sport since the gladiators. We all rush to see the "Hit of the Week." If you are old enough you remember the early episodes of TV's "Football Follies", where each week several players, after getting blasted in the head, were shown stumbling to the wrong side of the field, with cartoon chirping birds and stars circling their head. Hilarious songs accompanied this footage, such as "How Dry I Am." This player just suffered the equivalent of a major auto accident (linemen receive around 70 car accidents per game) for your amusement.

In the history of this violent sport, only FOUR (4) players have ever successfully received NFL disability for head injuries. FOUR!

Sound like the tobacco companies trying to avoid massive losses due to liability?

I retired from the Minnesota Vikings in 1987, and doctors did not connect the dots from my physical problems to a succession of concussions during my 7-year career.

This issue, and my experience with a corrupt NFL Disability system, led me to testify before a House Judiciary subcommittee and the full Senate Commerce Committee.

I graduated from UCLA with honors, and everyone thought I was going on to big things in life. I was accepted to a prestigious west coast law school. Then I entered the NFL.

I found that I could not stay awake for more than a few hours at a time, (my main symptoms are fatigue, vertigo, headaches, memory problems) and I got fired from jobs such as selling beer and insurance. I lost everything I had -- home, car, marriage -- but I was awarded custody of our young toddler son.

In 2000, doctors finally figured out that concussions were the root of my problem and sent me for brain scans. The scans clearly showed significant damage in an area of the brain that correlates with my symptoms. I filed a claim with the NFL, and they sent me to a doctor, who enthusiastically approved my claim. The NFL could not accept that, so I was sent to a second doctor who also approved my claim.

Fed up, the NFL hired a shameless doctor who admitted in his written report that he never looked at existing brain scans nor took his own. In other words, he denied my claim without ever looking at the part of my body part in question.

This led my young son and I to homelessness. We lived out of a camping tent or cheap motels, maybe a car, or the streets. How many of you have picked asphalt out of your hair in the morning before going to school?

As I told Congress: "Just as the tobacco companies fought like hell to deny links to cancer; the NFL is desperately, and corruptly, trying to deny liability for the carnage left behind by decades of head injuries."

And, many of these concussions came when we were guinea pigs for a new product called "Astro-Turf". Astro-Turf was nothing more than concrete covered with a quarter inch of decorative green plastic. Even a routine fall to the ground caused head injuries that were far more devastating than man-to-man contact.

Turf is much better today, but no thanks to football. Remember the Twins World Series in 1987 in the HHH Metrodome? Fans complained that routine balls hit into the rock hard surface bounced like Superballs resulting in ground rule doubles. That was the impetus for today's improved surfaces, not NFL players' health.

Today's players are protected by rules and improved equipment (routine hits of 20 years ago are major penalties today, and don't touch the QB!). Most concussions are suffered by nameless interior linemen like me, so most casual observers don't notice anyway?

But fans need to pressure NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, and especially team owners to go back now and take care of the hundreds of NFL retirees that I know are suffering needlessly because of these Astro-Turf concussions.

And, please, don't let me hear any moron say "well, they knew what they were getting into" or that we got paid millions of dollars. Most of these victims played for four-figure salaries and made their real money in the off season. The 1950's,60's, 70's and 80's players are the heroes who got you interested in the game.

Without an outcry from you the fans, these men, heroes, will die without an ounce dignity, the very same men you watched, you worshiped, on black and white TV with Howard Cosell -- the men who forced you to fall in love with the wonderful game of pro football. Homelessness, addiction, dementia, and poverty are the norm. It is the corrupt rich owners of today who need, as Mike Ditka says, "to do the right thing."

By Brent Boyd  |  June 10, 2009; 10:06 AM ET  | Category:  Concussions , Medical Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Finally, an opportunity to make some noise about this topic. I hope that after reading this article many of you football fans will show your support for these retired players by not buying any Coors beer, tickets to game, and getting the NFL package from the cable company.

I was one of those people that thought that all football players made millions. Boy was I wrong. It is so true what Brent writes here, and I whole heartedly agree that Groom Law and the NFL retirement board should be fired! These men have done everything to slow down or prevent the acceptance of many and all disability claims, causing many families great financial despair, preventing the medical help that is required to live a better quality of life, and stripping them of their dignity by simply tabling claims, and doctor shopping.

"Delay, deny, and hope they die" really is this groups mantra.

Posted by: linguini56 | June 10, 2009 4:22 PM

"The 1950's,60's, 70's and 80's players are the heroes who got you interested in the game."

Does your cause include the players from prior to 1959 Mr. Boyd? Mr. Ditka?

Posted by: delOH | June 12, 2009 8:51 AM

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