Eight-year NFL veteran Jacob Bell has decided to walk away from the game of football, partially due to the recent suicide of former linebacker Junior Seau. Despite signing with the Cincinnati Bengals last month, the 31-year-old has used this new tragedy as motivation to walk away from the game he loves while he still can.
However, Bell does not plan on ending his involvement with the sport. With his retirement, he hopes to make life after football better for retired players by increasing awareness of the health risks that await them down the road, particularly concussions.
Although he currently says he feels healthy and his mind is clear, NFL.com reports that he cites future health concerns for his retirement decision. Bell took an active interest in his post-NFL health and frequently reached out to retired players to understand their challenges.
As a result, he has a full grasp of the realities that former players face and understands that his own health may not last forever. “It’s a blessing to be able to retire and walk away on my own instead of being forced out of it,” Bell said.
Fully aware of the tradeoffs NFL players make, he questions the wisdom of sacrificing your brain for “a couple million bucks.” “We’re giving our lives to the game of football for a price,” Bell said. At the moment, researchers have only started putting together information on the long-term effects of frequent hits to the head and concussions.
Bell intends to become one of the few players who come forward to present this issue, though he admits his retirement may have made this outspokenness easier. The league report explains that Bell has offered the following additional suggestions to help protect players by preventing these brain injuries:
- Rookies begin careers with a brain scan-Although players receive a thorough medical examination to give teams a complete overview of their health, a brain scan is not included. Bell feels rookies should know of any possible brain trauma they suffered before entering the league. Ideally, Bell would like the results of these scans to be for the players’ eyes only, although this might be a challenge.
- Include concussion awareness education during the rookie symposium-Bell criticizes his own rookie symposium in 2004, saying all the information provided revolved around money. While he admits this was useful, he also believes a panel of doctors should be brought in to discuss the health risks. He said that to learn about brain health issues, he had to independently research the risks by speaking to retired players.
- Incorporate psychologist education-With the recent number of former NFL player suicides, the depression risks of brain injuries has become a major topic. By forcing young players to develop a relationship with psychologists early on, it may make it easier for them to seek help if they do begin experiencing depression issues later.