Former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley admits that he’s scared.
That’s why he takes medication he hopes staves off degenerative brain damage, and why he called a league-sponsored help line when he considered suicide.
Turley, in an in-depth story with Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, thinks both stem from a career in the NFL which included two diagnosed concussions but what he thinks are many more undiagnosed ones.
“I’ve got young kids,” Turley said. “It’s scary as hell. It keeps me up at night. It’s something that weighs on me heavily.”
Turley, who is one of more than 4,000 former players involved in a concussion lawsuit against the NFL, said he suffers bouts of vertigo and light sensitivity. He said his grandfather suffered from ALS, but that there was no other family history that involved brain disease, or pointed to suicidal thoughts.
“No one in my family has ever gone crazy and killed themselves or thought about that,” Turley said. “I have. It’s not a thought that is fleeting. It’s a thought that goes away when I’m on my medication, and the thought of doing a lot of crazy things as well and making unbelievable decisions.”
Turley has a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son, and he said he wants to do anything he can to make the game safer if his son wants to follow in his footsteps.
“I’ve got as good of a chance as anybody of going down that road into Crazy Land or into Super Crazy Disease Land,” Turley said. “I’ve got every opportunity to probably be in the same boat in the future, and I don’t know how far in the future. It’s very, very disturbing, very frustrating, very stressful to deal with, especially having kids.”
Those children were on his mind when he called the NFL Life Line, a 24-hour counseling hotline set up by the league after Junior Seau’s death last year.
“It was imperative that I did,” Turley said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just a moment where you’re lost. You’re completely gone. You don’t understand the things that you’re doing, you’re pissed at yourself because you’re doing the things that you’re doing, and you have little control, it seems, over it.
“Even in the moment, you’re saying, ‘Why is this happening? What is going on?’ But you’re still in it. It’s a weird thing. I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s frustrating to no end, and that frustration can lead you to some pretty low places. Only those who have gotten to the point where they picked up a phone can probably understand.”
He can’t help but think about Seau at such times, and the fact that the support system that stemmed from the former Chargers linebacker’s death might have saved his own life.