Monday, December 21, 2009

"I Wish I Never Played Football"

Jeff Pearlman from SI with an interview with Dave Pear on a subject much beloved at Oblong Spheroid.

Pear is sitting at his home in Seattle. His neck hurts. His hips hurt. His knees hurt. His feet hurt. When he wakes up in the morning, pain shoots through his body. When he goes to sleep at night, pain shoots through his body. What does Pear do to stay active?

"My life is simple," he says. "It's hard to get out of bed, but eventually I do. I try and do a little walking on the treadmill. I take naps. I go to physical therapy once per week. I read my Bible."

He is, in basic terms, a train wreck -- a football-inflicted train wreck. Pear walks with a cane and, often, simply doesn't walk at all. He suffers from vertigo and memory loss. Over the past 18 years, he has undergone eight surgeries, beginning with a Posterior Cervical Laminectomy on his neck in 1981, and including disc removal and rod fusion in his back (1987), arthroplasty in his left hip (2008) and, earlier this year, four screws removed from his lower back. Though he chalks up his physical ailments to snap after snap of punishment, he pinpoints the biggest problems back to 1979 and '80, his final two NFL seasons. While playing for Oakland, Pear suffered a herniated disc in his neck that never improved. Despite the unbearable agony, he says the Raiders urged him to keep playing.

Be a man! Be tough! "Those last two years in Oakland were very, very difficult times," he says. "I was in pain 24 hours per day


  1. I truly sympathize, but at some point you gotta say, 'You made your choices, now you got to live with them. You chose the paycheck over less neck pain.'

    These guys weren't struggling in the coal mines 16 hours a day to feed their family. Even in 1980 an NFL player was very well-paid compared to average.

  2. I can buy that, but I also think back in 1980 no one ever told these guys that 20 or 30 years from now they'd be living in constant pain. It's one thing to do that when you have no idea there won't be long term's another to be fully informed and decide to do it.

  3. There's not a person on earth who thinks that playing line in the NFL for two years with a herniated disc, after a lengthy career and with "unbearable pain" wouldn't lead to longer-term pain and perhaps disability.

  4. Thanks for contributing. Wish the discussion forum here had better utility.

    Thing is, I'm not sure what kind of choices a lot of these guys have/had. The types of people who make it to the top of this sport have typically been indoctrinated from a young age to overcome injuries/pain. At the age of 26 these people are still pretty young and prone to binary thought - I know I was. Right/Wrong. Coach is right, teammates are right, football is right.

    I don't know that this should be changed, but I do think it is naive to think that these people (or really more than a handful of people anywhere) really have both the wisdom and the education at that age to make life-changing decisions like that. Sure, there is the occasional Robert Smith who is particularly cerebral, but we have to agree that he is truly exceptional.


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