The stories keep piling up, at an alarming rate.
And reading the individual tales of heartbreak adds to the collective sense of dread at what’s coming next.
Former Chargers and 49ers linebacker Steve Hendrickson is suffering from a host of cognitive problems that he relates directly to his football 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.”
That short-term memory loss is among a host of problems for the 45-year-old Hendrickson, who hasn’t been able to work for six years, and was divorced a year ago.
He was mostly a special teams player in the NFL, and earned a reputation for toughness at an early age. But playing through a separated shoulder in a high school game is one thing. Playing through more serious injuries may have put him in his current position.
Hendrickson estimated he sustained at least 20 concussions while playing football at Cal and in seven years in the NFL. But he said there were never many questions along the way.
“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’d 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.”
So far, he’s not among the thousands of former players joining concussion-related lawsuits. But there are enough tales like his, not all of them on a court docket, to realize this is a looming storm for the NFL.
(Photo credit: Napa Register)