This week 30 year old Husain Abdullah retired from the NFL. As a safety for the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings he has sustained 5 concussions over the past 7 seasons. Abdullah made a very reasoned decision that continuing to play was an unacceptable risk. He had made changes in his tackling technique, and credits that with protecting him from concussion for two years, but he realized that in his words, “Nobody can tell you for certain how to prevent another one and what the effects of the next one or just a hit might have. So, when I started looking at that and looking at long-term health – I don’t want to be that boxer that just stayed around for too long”.

He is correct that 5 concussions put him at significantly higher risk for sustaining additional concussions. He is correct that medical science can’t cite a specific number of concussions that are likely to cause long term, permanent  damage.

We should give him credit for making a considered, well reasoned non-reactionary decision. There are risks and benefits to medications, to playing sports, to being a couch potato. Recurrent injuries are an important factor for any athlete to consider. And it is not just long term brain injuries and dementia. How many former professional athletes can hardly walk from knee and back injuries? Retiring Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning has lost significant feeling in his arm from a neck injury.

Congratulations to Husain Abdullah for an impressive professional career. Congratulations for knowing when the health risks exceeded the other benefits.

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