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Emily Kelly, Wife of Former NFL Player, Speaks Out on how Football Destroyed her Husband's Mind

By: CSCS

On February 2, 2018, Emily Kelly, wife of retired N.F.L. player Rob Kelly, published an Op-Ed in the New York Times on how football destroyed her husband’s mind. Rob was a safety for five seasons, four with the New Orleans Saints, and one with the New England Patriots. He retired in 2002 at age 28, due to a nerve injury he sustained at training camp. Ms. Kelly opens up in the article on the dramatic change in her husband’s personality over the years, and how he in essence became a shell of his former self. He went from being a present, loving husband and father, to someone who stopped eating, became paranoid, and who had in essence lost touch with reality. The examining clinician found that “repeated concussion is very likely to have caused Mr. Kelly’s neuropsychological dysfunction[…].”

Ms. Kelly sharing her family's story on her husband's brain damage is an act of courage in the current societal context, as much is still highly stigmatized and misunderstood about the affects of playing football on the mind.The public still lacks a basic understanding of how the ‘big hits’ or repeated hits to players’ heads may have grave consequences for those players. A central point being of the Kelly's story and others like it, is that the men that suffer from traumatic brain injuries because of football may have chosen football, but they certainly did not knowingly chose to be permanently brain injured, or to suffer from greatly increased risks for life-altering conditions such as dementia, A.L.S., or C.T.E. The sharing of such intimate, personal stories like that of from the Kelly family is incredibly important to help the public, and the players and their families, gain a greater understanding of the real risks tied with playing football. Hopefully, Ms. Kelly has inspired others to come forward to help shed a light on this very dark side of the sport.