Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antwaan Randle El had it all. He was an All Pro in 2005 and in the following year threw one of the most memorable passes in the history of the sport and, of course, he made lots (and lots) of money during his career.
But now he wishes he hadn’t played in the NFL in the first place and his reasons are disturbing, yet legitimate, to say the least.
For starters, he has trouble walking down the stairs.
“I have to come down sideways sometimes, depending on the day,” Randle El told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Going up is easier actually than coming down.”
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In a Web feature on former NFL players for the newspaper, Randle El explained how, because of the multiple injuries he sustained while playing for nearly a decade, he increasingly suffers from memory loss.
“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,’” he stated. “I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that. I try to chalk it up as I’m busy, I’m doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.”
Randle El, who retired in 2010, went on to start the Virginia Academy, a Christian high school in Ashburn where he currently works as an athletic director. Initially, he wanted and kept a football program at the school but dropped it two years later due to cost concerns.
"The kids are getting bigger and faster, so the concussions, the severe spinal cord injuries, are only going to get worse,” he added. “It’s a tough pill to swallow because I love the game of football. But I tell parents, you can have the right helmet, the perfect pads on, and still end up with a paraplegic kid.”
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What’s even more stressing is how Randle El isn’t the only NFL player who suffers from this problem. Football is not only the most popular sport in the U.S. but also the most dangerous. A 2014 study revealed 96 percent of deceased NFL players suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that usually goes undetected until after death.
"There’s no correcting it. There’s no helmet that’s going to correct it,” the former athlete concluded. “There’s no teaching that’s going to correct it. It just comes down to it’s a physically violent game. Football players are in a car wreck every week."