In 1985 Jim McMahon was the quarterback for one of the most popular Super Bowl championship teams in NFL history. The rebel-type QB with the spiked hair and dark shades relished the hype and basked in the spotlight.
But that was 29 years ago.
More recently, McMahon would leave his house and not remember how to get back home. He would need to call his girlfriend Laurie and say, “I don’t know where I’m at. I don’t know how I got on this road. Aliens abducted me and put me over here.”
He would also lie in the dark for weeks suffering from painful headaches. And in his most oppressive hours, he would even consider ending all the suffering by taking his own life.
McMahon spoke candidly yesterday in a news conference about what his life is like today, after years of playing football, after taking repeated hits to the head. ”I am glad I don’t have any weapons in my house or else I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be here. It got to be that bad.” He added, “I can see how some of these guys have ended their lives, because of the pain.”
The former champion is currently in Chicago because he is being honored today by the Sports Legacy Institute, a group that has been studying what happens to the brain after trauma.
Here’s the truth about concussions. They can lead to early onset dementia, severe depression, and suicidal thoughts. But McMahon is an example that there is some hope. He says that his suicidal thoughts have passed largely in part due to a treatment that drains spinal fluid from the brain. However, he will most likely have to deal with the dementia for the rest of his life.
McMahon is currently fighting back. He and several other former NFL players have filed a federal lawsuit accusing teams of handing out harmful pain medications to make sure players could get back on the field, with absolutely no concern for their long-term health.
Additionally, McMahon is part of larger class-action suit against the NFL for knowingly putting guys back on the field who had concussions, even though the effects of those injuries were life threatening, “The NFL continues to make billions and billions of dollars every year. And some of these guys are homeless. They don’t know who they are, and they were the ones who built this brand to where it’s at.”
Several former NFL players, including McMahon, are challenging the $765 million concussion settlement between the thousands of ex-players and the league. They feel that the funds won’t cover the 20,000 who need it, and the money will fall short of providing for players with the most serious cases of head trauma.
McMahon estimates that he had three to five diagnosed concussions and many more concussions that were not officially diagnosed throughout his football career. The former quarterback also admitted that due to injuries like broken ribs and a broken neck that he developed an addiction to painkillers.
Image via Jim McMahon, Twitter