Jarrod Cooper: My Fight with Head Injuries and My Decision To Retire
Today is the first day I've felt that I needed to talk about what's been going on with my personal medical condition. Every time I encounter a die-hard Raider fan I get the same question: "Why did you retire so abruptly?" I would always skate around the truth, but I am a fan of Raider Nation and I feel that you guys have the right to know.
At the beginning of the 2008 NFL season, I spent most of my time either in the training room or in bed with migraines. I had never had migraines before and didn't realize just how debilitating migraines can be.
The trainers didn't really know what was going on, but I had a sneaky suspension that there was damage to my head that I couldn't be reverse. The doctors relentlessly prescribed painkillers over and over but nothing worked. And at that time I decided to take a year off of football to get help with my headaches.
Head injuries in the NFL are nothing new, an as long as we love and play the game of football head injuries will always be there. Most if not all of Raider Nation knows Jarrod Cooper as a hit-you-in-the-face, back, legs, or any other part of your body that I can get a hold of, without even thinking twice about it. It is the way football is supposed to be played, period. Unfortunately, that comes with future consequences on your body.
After several trips to different doctors' offices, I still have no comforting answers on my current condition whatsoever. I am getting diagnoses that are very scary, like frontal lobe dementia, degenerative brain disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which all are a direct result from multiple concussions. When words like that get thrown at you it's very hard not to think negatively about the outcome of your situation.
Two an a half years later the migraines have gotten worse and worse. They have gotten to the point that I can not even run my own household. Medication has been prescibed to me with little to no impact at all. During a bad week I spend about four to five days in bed with crippling migraines.
When I first heard about head injuries and the long-term effect on players, I didn't give it a second thought. To be honest, I knew that I would suffer from something when I was in my 50s and 60s, mainly because I personally know several older players from all different generations that are suffer now from the effects from the game of football. I am 32 years old and I have been affected in such a way that I have to share my story hoping that it will help players in the future.
I sat and really gave thought to what could be done to help the affects of head injuries in the game of football. I have come to the conclusion that not much can be done. I wish there were but there is no way around it. Sure, the NFL can put a stop to the big hits and even control who and how players hit and tackle each other. But from start to finish, the game of football is based around hitting, and it will always be part of football no matter what.
Many people ask me if I regret playing. I have to laugh and tell them as long as I am buried with my Super Bowl ring, it was all worth it. It truly takes a different kind of person to make it in the NFL. In a player's mind, he knows the entire time he is playing football that his mind, body and soul will never be the same, but we decide to continue to play.
Over the years I have saved my money and have become just a little greedy, if you will. While laying in bed with migraines it made me realize that you can't take it with you. I discovered something about myself while laying in what I thought was my death bed at the time, and that is the only thing that truly makes me happy is helping other people.
So ladies and gentlemen, you most definitely will see Jarrod Cooper in the near future working with Oakland's animals and the Oakland Children's Hospital, trying to make a difference. The greatest thing to come out of all this is I have learned to live and have decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping others.
Eight-year NFL veteran
Spay and neuter your pets.
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