Andrew Luck's recent retirement kick started one of the most important mental health and wellness conversations of the new football season - the well-being of athletes who suffer serious, long-term and/or repeated injuries. While concussions are what we default to when speaking about injuries and retirement from sports - the width of what Luck raised is much deeper. Luck is from great pedigree, has a Stanford degree and enjoys whatever privileges you want to agree his White male status affords him, but Black college football players pay close attention to Luck’s message.
Right after Luck’s retirement came news that another university/athletic department had become a defendant in yet another college sports lawsuit because the athletic department and/or coaches forced athletes - in particular football players - to play when hurt. So, when replaying my work experiences in college athletics I think about kids, who we sometimes mistake for men, who suffered some serious and traumatic injuries. Kids who didn't take enough time off to heal, didn't get any clinical help for the trauma related to the injury or temporary loss of identity. Then they had some challenging academic (pass those classes) and family (thought you were entering the draft this year?) demands fall on them. The physical loss, albeit temporary, is just one of many setbacks and making it through life without sports, as Luck attested too, is not easy as we think.
Now, I have worked with a lot of coaches and most are good dudes, but many never played college football and of those who did few suffered that never ending string of injuries. It's not just physical - in fact it is mostly mental. Black college athletes end up physically (and subsequently mentally) disabled because of coaches, trainers, sports medicine directors, and/or athletic directors want to win games and make money. Their interest converge with Black football player’s obsession with making the NFL. So…at the end of the day Black college football athletes have no one to blame but themselves if they end up with chronic pain, hooked on opioids, no NFL career and no degree. Bruh's pay attention to Andrew Luck
This weekend end alone the season ended for a slew of Black college football players and the same will happen for hundreds more over the next four months.
So… do not pay attention to those who dismissed and degraded Andrew. Instead, if you suffer a serious injury or string or two, while you still have your physical capacities and the right to a college education, figure out which has the highest return on your investment - trying to be the comeback back player of the year or getting that degree and insuring your physical well-being for years to come?