How Football Killed Tyler Sash


Former New York Giants safety, Tyler Sash, died at age 27 from an accidental pain medication overdose. He’d played 16 years of football, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that, after his death, he was diagnosed with CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a degenerative brain disease.

Have you seen “Concussion,” a movie starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu? Dr. Omalu is a pathologist who learns that playing football — simply playing the game — can cause serious concussions that lead to brain damage. In other words, it shows how brain damage can happen to any football player. You don’t have to play for the NFL to suffer brain damage as a result of playing the game. The movie, which was wonderfully done, is painful to watch because it is the sickening story of how greed and power trumps the well being of human beings.

I wrote in my book, The Painful Truth, about the trauma of Hal Garner. He is a former college All American and two-time Super Bowl star who used opioids to keep on the field until he was released by the Buffalo Bills. Then the pain and emotional deficit of not hearing the 100,000 cheering fans on a weekly basis led to addiction and incarceration.

Hal Garner’s story had a happy ending. He is sober now and living a productive life. But he was one of the lucky ones.

Brain injuries cause an emotional pain like physical pain. Opioids are sometimes used to escape both types of pain. And, as we see, painkillers can lead to overdoses, and overdoses can lead to death.

Tragic deaths don’t happen to all football players, but they do happen. Tyler Sash is just the latest in a long line of people who suffered because they played football.

Prevention needs to be part of the solution but there is an urgent need for safer treatment options as well. These are sad stories that demand action.

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