Winston explained the reasoning behind his decision: "Ultimately, I want to be a part of that process that helps the next generation of athletes at all levels have a greater understanding of what science says about head trauma and hopefully that will lead to better treatment and prevention."
In addition to his duties on the field, Winston serves as president of the NFL Players Association. He said the role has given him a different perspective on the bigger picture and generations of players to come:
I have always felt that I have a responsibility to our players—past, present and future—but when you're president of the union it adds that weight to it and people look to you to continue a legacy of building upon what has been done in the past. The challenges are very real, but I learned that the best way to improve things for the lives of players is to be uncompromising about certain principles, and health and safety is one of those. At the end of the day, I want to leave this union better for the next guy that comes in, and I think that’s really what it’s always been about.
NFL stars suffering from head trauma isn't a recent issue, but it has become a pressing topic following the research of Dr. Bennet Omalu and others into the causes of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The practice of players donating their brains to science has only grown following the PBS documentary League of Denial, which aired in 2013. According to PBS' Jason M. Breslow, as of September 2015, 87 of the 91 brains donated by players to the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University tested positive for CTE.
Even before more information about concussions and their long-term effects emerged, Winston spoke about the physical costs of playing football while chastising Kansas City Chiefs fans who cheered after quarterback Matt Cassel was injured in a 2012 game against the Baltimore Ravens.
"But when somebody gets hurt, there are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play," Winston said, per Joel Thorman of SB Nation's Arrowhead Pride. "I've already kinda come to the understanding that I won't live as long because I play this game and that's OK, that's a choice I've made and a choice all of us have made."
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