That professional football players are willing to endure pain — both present and future — isn’t necessarily news.
But sometimes a story stops you in your tracks, and reminds you what they’re putting on the line on a weekly basis.
Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald has a chilling piece on former Dolphins pass-rusher Jason Taylor, including a story about the night Taylor was told he was close to losing his leg.
That’s just one of the grisly details in Le Batard’s piece, but perhaps the one that most graphically illustrates the weekly sacrifice players eagerly make.
Taylor recalled being leg-whipped during a game in Washington, causing a severe bruise to form on his calf. Only the pain became so intense during the night that after trying to sleep in the stairs because it offered momentary relief, he called the trainer, who rushed him to the hospital. When doctors there recommended immediate surgery to prevent nerve damage, Taylor initially resisted, saying he wanted a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. When he finally got on the phone with Andrews, the doctor told him about the danger of compartment syndrome, and that he’d probably have to amputate if he waited until the morning.
Rather than relief at not losing a leg, Taylor said he was angry because he’d have to miss time.
“I was mad because I had to sit out three weeks,” Taylor said. “I was hot.
“The things we do. Players play. It is who we are. We always think we can overcome.”
Taylor also talks about having to bite onto towels to muffle the screaming that was a natural result of the pain-killing injections he’d get into his feet so he could continue to play.
He admitted lying to doctors. He acknowledged that playing through some of the injuries (as well as regular doses of pain-killing Toradol injections) likely came with long-term problems.
But Taylor also recalled making fun of players who “took up residency” in the trainer’s room, and shrugged off playing games with a catheter inserted into his armpit, which he needed to deliver antibiotics to cure the staph infection he developed.
“Would I do it all again? I would,” Taylor said. “If I had to sleep on the steps standing up for 15 years, I would do it.”
Taylor’s words are far from unusual, which is why league officials can talk all day about making the game safer if it makes them feel better.
Until they can protect players from themselves, there’s only so much they’ll ever be able to do.