Former BYU, Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon opens up about dementia

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  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    Oct. 23, 2014 8:02 a.m.

    NFL players do make the choice going in, knowing full well that permanent injuries of all kinds are distinct possibilities. The public (and many people on these threads) are fine with that as long as their entertainment needs are met and they get a little crabby if the "millionaires" (as if they are all millionaires)-complain that they were kept in the dark about the dangers of head injuries (which--it has been absolutely proven the NFL knew about and kept hidden) League of Denial-Frontline. Third point is that many NFL players see this life as their only option for education (while in college) and earning a living. This is sort of like the slave complaining that his master is cruel and neighbors looking on and saying "Well, you had to be aware that whipping was a distinct possibility if you complained about the conditions. Nobody dragged you here from Africa!"

  • Laura Bilington Maple Valley, WA
    Oct. 18, 2014 7:23 p.m.

    The only difference between football games and Christians getting thrown to the lions is that the football players are better paid.

    When we pretend that we're cheering the skill of "our" team as we watch the players of the "other" team get hurt, it says something about us. As somebody who sees no fun in football, I'm struck at how many "fans" are saying that it's the players' fault. Do you really think this bone crushing sport would be the way it is without the fans who shelled out the bucks to see them?

  • PacUtes Salt Lake, UT
    Oct. 9, 2014 7:19 a.m.

    1) Players sued the NFL because there were no full disclosure of potential injuries.

    2) Can owners (who paid players' salaries) and fans (who paid for tickets) sue the
    players because they did not disclose that they may have attitudes, drug habits, etc
    that may affect their performance on the field?

    3) Who can I sue if I am stupid not to realize that there are risks associated with
    almost all financial benefits in life? My parents? My teachers?

  • BU52 Provo, ut
    Oct. 7, 2014 5:43 a.m.

    So essentially we need to treat these athletes like the race horses they are, don't give them any choice about playing or not playing, the management needs to make all decisions for them or the management is held responsible. I'm OK with that concept. Most of those that make it to the pros are catered to throughout high school and coddled through their college experience, so why not just continue the treatment at the pro level. And when they are no longer useful to the organization they need to be put out to stud, so we can get the next set of gladiators to entertain the masses.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    Sept. 24, 2014 10:02 p.m.

    Jim is 50 something. I fear what is going to happen in ten years as far as his dementia. My father in law suffered for years with dementia and it is as degrading a disease as it gets. It takes all of your dignity and leaves you in a fog. Very sad. Hopefully this law suit will provide some funds for help. The other broken bones and things he suffered is just evidence of the brutality of the game. EVen Bret Farve is suffering although not like Jim. Farve is product of modern NFL while Jim is a sad product of 20+ years ago when things were much worse. I see these line backers today at 6'3" 260lbs and running 4'6 40. Geez this is like getting hit by a truck! I fear the NFL has crossed the line into being too brutal now and there are going to have to be rule changes in big ways otherwise the value of the game is going to degrade considerably.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    June 19, 2014 3:11 p.m.

    @ kranny, I agree. I'm doing my part.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    June 19, 2014 10:54 a.m.

    I remember watching Jim on the sidelines during the Bears magical season. I watched him, literally bash his bare head (no pun intended) against a teammates and thought that it might have been the most masochistic thing I've ever seen an athlete do. My point is that there is a middle ground here and it involves choice and what an athlete, their agents and their parents should know as compared to what they can't be reasonably expected to know. No one in the world can tell me that Jim didn't know he was doing damage to his head when he head butted a teammate and the same thing can be said about playing after having sustained a head injury. Every boxer knows the risk and really, so does every athlete who plays a sport where concussions are commonplace. The trouble for the NFL and NCAA football is not in these lawsuits, it is in the fact that MOTHERS are also starting to know it very well. I wish Jim all the luck in the world and I'm truly happy he's finding relief in therapy.

  • Surf is Up Miami, FL
    June 18, 2014 4:44 p.m.

    I used to live in Utah and spent countless hours skiing the moguls up at Snowbird and Alta. Now I have back pain an bad knees.

    I guess this means I can sue those ski resorts for providing me with a fun way to trash my body. And they didn't pay me to go there either.

    I wish Jim the best. But he chose to play the game.

  • Objectified Richfield, UT
    June 18, 2014 1:33 p.m.

    How can any reasonable person expect all coaches to know when a player's neck vertebrae might be cracked, unless the player tells him they suspect something's wrong. Then the coach assumes some responsibility to follow up with further examinations.

    There's no indication in this article that McMahon ever told coaches about or even suspected his own neck had sustained any breakage. So how could or would his coach know? He wouldn't, nor could he reasonably be expected to.

    As someone else mentioned, it would be virtually impossible to take x-rays each time a player takes a hard hit just to be on the safe side. That's not even remotely possible during a game. Besides, most players would then be exposed to enough x-ray radiation to fry them.

    There are assumed risks when playing the game of football. Players are aware of them. To now pretend like they didn't know, after their playing days are over and the game rewarded them very well, seems pretty questionable.

    Had all this happened while playing during their high school years, this case would have more merit. These grown men weren't oblivious to what was happening.

  • Copacetic Logan, UT
    June 18, 2014 12:48 p.m.

    @ DonO and Ronald U.:

    Coaches and teams can't x-ray and take MRIs after each solid hit a player takes. There's no way they always tell if a player might have a small crack in a neck or back vertebrae. Even McMahon didn't and still doesn't know with certainty when he got his neck injury. He's only guessing at this point. One thing is certain. He went decades afterwards before finding out about the injury.

    That being said, how can a coach be expected to know the extent of each injury a player has during the middle of a game? He can't. He relies on players to tell him how they feel and whether apparent injuries feel bad enough not to re-enter a game. Sometimes a player may feel pressure to go back in (I would too if I was being paid multi-millions to play), but no one actually forces them to.

    A player has to assume some responsibility for his own well-being. It's his body and no one else can know exactly how he feels after each play. That has to be communicated by players. Usually it's not.

  • Objectified Richfield, UT
    June 18, 2014 12:34 p.m.

    @ hadtosayit:

    It's a bit hard to feel sorry for a guy who has made tens of millions of dollars, enjoyed the hight of his chosen occupation, partied like a wild animal for decades, then wants sympathy from others.

    Every college and pro football player totally understands that football is a violent sport. They know exactly what kind of hits are made on players. They understand it multiple times better than their lawyers and agents.

    But they chose to take those risks and play anyway. They are always given the best equipment available. QB's wear flack jackets and have extra rules protecting them. They are never forced to play at any given time. If they feel injured enough not to be able to play, no one physically forces them back onto the field. It's always have to concur.

    It's a high-risk, high-reward occupation. One that is conscientiously chosen by each player who plays. Most of those who are now suing are players who mismanaged their money and are looking for one last bailout... Jim included. He lived the fast life and partied a lot even after his playing days. Now he's basically broke.

  • NT SomewhereIn, UT
    June 18, 2014 12:20 p.m.

    "I remember watching Jim play , not only at BYU but also in the pro's..."

    I think I remember watching Jim play. Not sure, though - I will need to go back through my notes - if I can find where I put them.

  • hadtosayit Sandy, UT
    June 18, 2014 11:38 a.m.

    Why all the cruel comments? Jim's playing brought joy to a lot a people, and players back in the day just didn't have the knowledge (about brain injury) that we do now. He may have made millions, but I doubt any one of us would trade places with him now. The man is facing some serious struggles; throw a little compassion his way.

  • MoJules Florissant, MO
    June 18, 2014 11:25 a.m.

    Football does get pretty violent and a lot of times those hits are to take them out of the game. It is an adjustment to watch baseball now where the catcher can't block home base, but they are making it work. They are going to have to do this in hockey also. As fans, players, coaches and owners, we need to put the value of the players safety ahead of the game.

  • Ronald Uharriet SWun City, Ca.
    June 18, 2014 11:04 a.m.


    We make life choices. We know the risk when we make those choices. That is the yes.

    If we are injured with a broken neck or concussions etc, we must be told that we have a broken neck or a concussion etc. It has to be the responsibility of the coach and the team management not to let that player continue to play with that broken neck or concussion. That is the no.

    Even in college football when we knowing allow a player to continue playing when we know that his neck is broken, or he has a concussion, leaves the door open for a law suit in years to come.

  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    June 18, 2014 9:42 a.m.

    I wonder what effect all the boozing has on players' brains. Does causality exist with early onset dementia? How about steroid use? I'm not making any specific accusations, only raising the question in general.

  • General Alpine, UT
    June 18, 2014 9:35 a.m.

    Lets break out the video footage of McMahon head bumping his teammates without a helmet on. He took great pride in this and was intent on showing how tough he was. Any good attorney can pull out these videos and see that he did this to himself and not as part of the game.

    June 18, 2014 9:09 a.m.

    So, let me see if I understand this correctly. An athlete CHOOSES to play a game for 12 - 14 yrs, gets paid millions of dollars to do so, and now they wants more millions to pay for their medical expenses - for a game they CHOSE to play. Sounds like they needed to put aside some of those funds during the time they were playing to pay for medical later on. Can't really feel too sorry for them.

  • DonO Draper, UT
    June 18, 2014 8:28 a.m.

    True that athletes choose to play the game. But as Jim points out, pro football is a huge business. And like any other business, management has a responsibility to its employees. Abusing employees to help the bottom line is not allowed in other businesses and should not be tolerated in football.

  • Betcha Waltham, MA
    June 18, 2014 8:21 a.m.

    I remember watching Jim play , not only at BYU but also in the pro's, he was very arrogant, I don't think you could have kept him off the field, he was the wild man, And I think today, we are seeing more and more of this, in order for these men to make the BIG BUCKS, they have to play the hardest, and the longest. So your right, they choose to play, even when they know their hurt... It is not the fault of any organization, it is the consequence of choice.

  • Silent Lurker Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 18, 2014 7:53 a.m.

    I feel for Jim, but I also agree with others here that he made the choice to play football. He enjoyed many benefits from his playing days and beyond. I also know of others who (in their fifties) are suffering from the same or different ailments because of age not because of a football career. We all are faced with one fact: the choices we make determine the life we live.

  • kranny utah, UT
    June 18, 2014 7:50 a.m.

    Esquire--The only ones who can change the value, status of the games are the fans who support sports.

  • mohokat Ogden, UT
    June 18, 2014 7:19 a.m.

    @kranny you are right on. There was no gun to his head. You play you pay.

  • TimBehrend Auckland NZ, 00
    June 18, 2014 5:55 a.m.

    "Spinal fluid cooling in the brain brought on by a rotation in his vertebrae was causing the headaches."

    Spinal fluid isn't like magma. I suspect it is pooling in his head, not cooling. Proofreaders?

  • theodoreable Heber City, UT
    June 18, 2014 4:54 a.m.

    I do feel sad for Jim and the others...however, THEY choose...THEIR AGENTS obtained contracts for them and they decided to be employed by the NFL. They made a life choice. Just like the rest of us. If we smoke, we have made a life choice, it will cause issues. If we drive a long haul truck....we have the chance to fall asleep at the wheel. If your agent obtains a contract that pays you MILLIONS to catch or throw a pigskin or block for them or whatever else, it is YOU that choose to SIGN that contract. DO NOT BLAME OTHERS. Take some PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for the choice. He was free to flip burgers or sell cars or other things. It is not the NFL's is not BYU's is not the Pop Warner's is HIS FAULT or his PARENTS that told him he could play football.

  • Thidder MAPLETON, UT
    June 18, 2014 2:22 a.m.

    I wonder how many of these awful symptoms will self cure once the check for millions is cashed? It is amazing what touching the ink and paper on $100 bills will do for your health.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    June 17, 2014 10:42 p.m.

    Football has become too violent and Jim is a sad reminder.

  • Johnny Moser Thayne, WY
    June 17, 2014 10:37 p.m.

    Sadly, even with the horror stories Jim tells that are likely 50-100 thousand men his age that would still trade places with him; to have the opportunities and game that he had seems worth it to them. I am on the fence, I am not sure that I would or wouldn't trade my life challenges for his. That is the crazy world we all live in.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    June 17, 2014 7:56 p.m.

    @ kranny, point taken, but maybe we need to make full disclosures to players, put a higher value on their health and safety, and lower the status of football somehow. Just a thought....

  • kranny utah, UT
    June 17, 2014 6:18 p.m.

    Jim was fun to watch play the game. But, who made him play?

  • IQ92 hi, UT
    June 17, 2014 5:42 p.m.

    Wonder how long until lawsuits will be brought against players' colleges. There's nothing magically exempt about college concussive blows to the head.