Health screenings highlight issues facing former football pros

Published: Dec. 3, 2017 at 2:39 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2017 at 8:19 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A recent study reveals more than 40 percent of retired NFL players tested showed signs of traumatic brain injury. It's an alarming statistic, but doctors say there are other, life-threatening issues retired players face at an even greater rate.

Saturday, Tulane doctors met with former professional players to make sure they weren't at risk.

"I'm 76 years old and I felt like it was about time," said former player Jerry Stovall.

It's been nearly 50 years since Stovall retired from the NFL but, with five grandchildren, he has no plans to slow down.

"We want to be with them as much as we can for as long as we can," he said. "I knew where I had come from, I wanted to know where my body was taking me for the future."

Stovall is one of many former football pros who took advantage of the NFL Player Care Foundation's health screenings at Tulane Medical Center.

"What we find is a lot of the former players are worried about concussion, CTE, chronic encephalopathy. What happens a lot of times is, they then don't worry about diabetes and high blood pressure, a lot of the things that will actually kill them," explained Dr. Gregory Stewart.

Stewart specializes in sports medicine. He says many players may neglect their health once they leave the league because they're used to easy access to medical care.

"We'll have guys come through in their '50's and '60's who the last time they saw a physician was when they were in the league," Dr. Stewart said.

What's more, he says mental health and transitional issues are the most common hurdles plaguing recently retired players, not brain injuries.

"Some guys just depressed from not being in the game, not being around it," said former Saints running back Deuce McAllister.

McAllister says he had a couple of concussions while playing, but it's the bumps, bruises and aches that remain constant reminders of his time in the NFL.

"Look, we're talking about, I had eight knee surgeries," said McAllister.

He says that's why regular check-ups are so important for the daily health of players like him.

"We're young and vigorous and we feel we can jump tall buildings in a single bound, but when we find out we're not really Super Man, what you have the ability to do then is take better care of yourself, take better care of your family," said Stovall. "Simply because your family doesn't have to worry about you."

The Player Care Foundation encourages former NFL pros to keep up with their health after they retire.

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