Gleason doesn’t regret football, but not sure for his son


Former Saints safety Steve Gleason, who has inspired as many with his work after being diagnosed with ALS as he did on the football field, admits he has mixed feelings about the sport.

While acknowledging a medical link between playing a sport that features concussive hits and certain brain diseases, he’s not willing to blame the game for everything.

Guest-writing Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, Gleason had an existential take on the direction his life had taken if he didn’t play the game. He can no longer walk, talk or eat because of the progression of the disease, but wrote a moving column using his eyes and a specially made computer

“So, I have conjured my own meaning from my circumstance, if in fact football did cause my ALS,” he wrote. “It means to me that I gave my life helping a city and a region in ruins find some hope in their struggle for rebirth. I will never regret that.”

That’s a reference to his blocked punt which was recovered for a touchdown in the first game in the Superdome post-Hurricane Katrina, a play that came to symbolize the city’s recovery.

He’s also aware that many wonder whether he’d do it again, or whether he’d want his son to play.

“The simple answer is this,” he wrote. “Right now, I’m happy. My life is not easy, but it’s awesome.”

While he said football was so intertwined in his existence to separate now, he’s not sure he wants the same for his young son Rivers.

“I never played football until I was 14, and I see no reason for Rivers to play until he is at least that old,” Gleason wrote. “I do not intend to force Rivers into or out of any activity, but unless there is further [evidence] regarding the safety of football, I believe I can make a strong case to Rivers to take his services and do something amazing elsewhere.”

His father already has, using his affliction as a platform to raise others up on. Whether that would have been possible if not for, or whether it’s because of football, seems like such a small part of the story now.

22 responses to “Gleason doesn’t regret football, but not sure for his son

  1. Can’t get more of a class act….Gleason, thanks for everything you have done for the NFL and the City of New Orleans!!!

  2. There are a lot of people who have never played football, at any level, who have gotten ALS. There is no proof there is a link between the two. Most parents, especially high earner parents, don’t want their young sons being physically hammered by other kids, so Gleason is not alone with his concern regarding football and his son.

  3. I’m not trying to be a jerk when I say this, but football doesn’t cause ALS. My wife has two patients who are both male and female over 50 who has this horrible disease.

  4. If anything, I can see parents’ reaction to football being a contributing factor to the decline of football. Until the sport can truly be made safe (is that possible? I don’t see how, but I’m not getting paid the big bucks), more and more parents will guide their kids in a different direction than football. So as less kids play, there will be less talent rising through the different levels of football to ultimately reach the NFL. So perhaps a generation from now, the quality of the game will be diminished not because the game itself has become too “soft,” but because the talent was directed elsewhere.

  5. Lou Gehrig if I recall didn’t play football and I’m sure in his farewell speech at Yankee stadium he didn’t say I think playing baseball may or may not have caused my ALS. Bottom line folks need to quite trying to blame everything on playing football, there are a greater number of players professional and non professionals who have played the sport who don’t have these issues.

    I played football, basketball, ran track, wrestled etc., even did 15 years in the military…my knees ache, my lower lumbar isn’t the best but I deal with it, as these aches and pains occur as you get older in those who’ve played and those who haven’t…

  6. There are many people that get lung cancer that never smoked a cigarette in their life. Their are many people who smoke two packs a day and never get lung cancer. Blaming lung on cigarettes is blasphemy! Quit being so ignorant.

  7. Look people, just because you know, or have heard of someone with ALS that didn’t play football, it doesn’t mean that football isn’t a contributing factor in developing ALS. The fact is, no one knows exactly what causes ALS, but repeated brain jarring blows/concussions could certainly be one cause. Sure are a lot of “doctors” in these comments that are so positive that football has nothing to do with it. SMH.

  8. Steve Gleason, God bless him for having to deal with this terrible disease, sure gets a lot of press from PFT, but you never say anything about another former NFL player, who has dealt with this terrible disease longer. O.J. Brigance who continues to inspire daily & continues to work for the Ravens. How about some love for O.J.?

  9. I believe Lou Gehrig had multiple concussions in his career. If you really think that having your brain traumatized like that for years with no other repercussions then you are being sort sighted. Gehrig was cremated so no further tests could be done on him. I am sure its tough for some of us who either played football and or have children that are playing the game. Their are risks involved and I hope and pray that we find out all we can from the effects of the game on the players.

  10. I don’t understand the football apologists.

    There are studies that have shown that NFL players are three times more likely to get neurodegenerative diseases than the general population.

    How many more studies need to be done, how many more players need to end up like Steve Gleason, OJ Brigance, Glenn Montgomery, Andre Waters and Dave Duerson? Get your head out of the sand guys.

    I love the NFL too. But this is much more important than that.

  11. The article is ambiguous as to whether Gleason blames football for his ALS. I didn’t follow the link to see if it states otherwise. The article does acknowledge his belief that repeated hits from football does cause certain brain diseases.

    That being said, it does not seem like a disproportionate amount of football players wind up with ALS, but a disproportionate amount do wind up with some neurological degeneration. The percentage of the population that has ALS is small (1 in 50,000). I have no idea how many football players or people that experience repeated head trauma have been diagnosed. Perhaps that would be a good article to write.

    I think the possibility exists that the ALS may have manifested earlier in life than it would have without repeated head trauma though.

  12. Anyone that puts a thumbs down on something positive written about Steve Gleason doesn’t know him, or has never met him. He is the epitome of bravery and class!

  13. It’s only a small part of the story bc we currently have no way of confirming what everyone fears is true… that ALS can possibly be “triggered” by brain trauma. Whether or not ALS is exclusively caused by brain trauma (sounds like its not) is irrelevant if brain trauma puts you at a higher risk for ALS.

  14. What we do know is that the NFL formulating the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee in 1994 and appointing a Rheumatologist did not help the cause of research so that maybe we would have some of these answers.

  15. Other than Gleason, how may other NFL players have been diagnosed and or had ALS? He’s the first that I know of! Where is the connection? Not trying to be funny or anything but let’s get real, if we’re trying to say football had something to do with then how about all the others who suffer(ed) from this disease who played no contact sport at all…

  16. First an foremost a class act.

    Now to you illiterate participants , he did not say football caused his ALS , he simply stated he does not know what caused it and if they can medically prove it does not then when his son turns 14 he will let him choose to play if he wants to. If by that time they can not come to a medical determination that repeated hits to the head does not cause ALS then he would try and guide his son into a different activty.

  17. “hendawg21 says: Jun 17, 2013 2:07 PM

    Other than Gleason, how may other NFL players have been diagnosed and or had ALS? He’s the first that I know of! Where is the connection? Not trying to be funny or anything but let’s get real, if we’re trying to say football had something to do with then how about all the others who suffer(ed) from this disease who played no contact sport at all…”

    Eric Scroggins
    O.J. Brigance
    Glenn Montgomery
    Pete Duranko
    Peter Demmerle
    Steve Smith
    Bob Waters
    Matt Hazeltine
    Gary Lewis
    Orlando Thomas
    Wally Hilgenberg
    Kevin Turner
    Bob Hohn

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