Originally written on Down and Distance  |  Last updated 11/12/14

It seems that every month a new story comes out of a former NFL player showing signs of damage to the brain from numerous concussions and hard hits. Whether the story is Junior Seau’s suicide or Jamal Anderson suing the NFL, all of them are sad and provide evidence to the dangers of playing in the NFL.

This time, former Chargers and 49ers linebacker Steve Hendrickson is suffering from a number of cognitive problems that he relates directly to his playing career.

“I can remember material I had before the concussions,” Hendrickson told Howard Yune of NapaNews.com. “Twenty years ago seems so clear to me, but yesterday seems just —- far away, foggy.”

The short term memory loss is one of many problems for Hendrickson, who, because of the side effects from his playing career, has not been able to work for six years.

Hendrickson estimates that he suffered at least twenty concussions will playing football at the University of Cal and in the NFL. He said there were not a lot of questions about his condition during those years.

“They never even questioned you, and I never questioned it,” he said. “They’d tell me how I got [the concussions] but never said it was some bad thing or that I should sit out. And when you cover kickoffs like I did, you’ll get a few, especially with the helmets they had then.”

Hendrickson, whose career ended in 1995, said his problems began in his 30s, when his memory began to fail and he would go through “these states where I’d be comatose two or three days, unable to move.”

While the Social Security Administration accepted his disability claim in 2007 citing trauma-related brain damage, he’s been frustrated by the NFL’s pension plan, which designated him disabled by “non-football causes.”

Asked if his football career was worth it, Hendrickson said: “Living the life, it wasn’t a great life. You’re a piece of meat, there one day and gone the next. And it might cost you your brain.”

The NFL is a dangerous game. Hopefully the future brings more safety standards to not only lower the amount of concussions suffered by players but also cut down on the side effects from head injuries.


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