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For NFL Players, Serious Injury is “All in a Day’s Work”

workplace injuryThe life of a professional football player is physically grueling. Wide receiver Nate Jackson played in the NFL for 7 years, mostly as a wide receiver with the Denver Broncos, and although he wasn’t a high-profile star — or even a starter — he did make a short career for himself in the coveted arena of professional sports. That also means he got bloodied and bruised as much as any other big-name player. And like his teammates in the NFL, he learned to play on through intense physical pain.

In a new memoir, Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile, Jackson remembers his playing days in extraordinary detail, from the glory of touchdown passes to the punishing existence of daily life on the scrimmage line.  And even those who have been through multiple workers’ compensation claims will be shocked by the extent of the injuries documented here. As he writes in the introduction, “I shattered my pinkie, broke it in half. I broke a rib. I broke my tibia. I tore my left groin. I tore my right hamstring several times. I tore my MCL in my right knee … I’ve had a couple of concussions and bone chips here and there.” And Jackson wasn’t even a starter.

While on tour promoting the book, Jackson was interview on Weekend Edition Sunday, where he explained how good the human mind is at minimizing pain when you believe yourr “moment of glory” is right on the horizon. “In football we are always pulled along by that next game, that next play, and so I learned how to get through the next play. No matter how much pain I was in I was able to turn it off … there’s a switch that I can locate and flip that switch and I don’t feel any pain.”

From poor pensions and off-season partying to the game-day routine and debilitating physical conditions—including degenerative brain injuries—Jackson offers a humorous and often shocking glimpse into NFL life. But at the center of every anecdote are the young men who risk their health – and even their lives – to play football.

The memoir comes at a time of intense scrutiny of the NFL, and rising controversy over head injuries and other serious workplace injuries sustained every day by football players. Jackson’s book also comes on the heels of a recent book and upcoming documentary, League of Denial, which exposes how the NFL has denied mounting evidence of the relation between brain damage and football for nearly two decades.
These fast-paced narratives take readers straight into the NFL trenches, as well as research labs that have studied the dangerous effects of head injuries and the boardrooms where NFL officials sought to deny extensive scientific studies.

Share your thoughts

What do you think? Should the NFL do more to prevent serious injuries to its players? Or should young, prospective football stars forgo the sport entirely if they are concerned about long-term health effects?

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Emery Reddy