Rice theorizes that he suffered his first head trauma when he was just eight years old in a pee wee football game and it had all the tell-tale symptoms of what we equate concussions as being.
“I didn’t know it was a concussion at the time, but I was in a head-on collision with another kid coming around the corner and it was the first time I’d seen stars,” Rice told Reuters. “I only thought that was in cartoons. But, at that age, you don’t know to tell your parents or tell the coach. So, I went back in the game and continued to play.”
Rice made the announcement Tuesday along with Giants punter Steve Weatherford to bring a spotlight to March being Brian Injury Awareness Month and to promote EHT – a coffee-derived supplement developed by scientists at Princeton University that protects against chronic inflammation of the brain, a common byproduct of repeated concussions.
Rice estimated that he suffered 15-20 concussions during his playing career and recalled one moment in which he was celebrated for his play, but suffered simultaneously.
“There was a bittersweet moment when we won a game in overtime versus the Chicago Bears,” Rice said. “I caught the touchdown pass and I was all sprawling and hit directly on the back of my head. I was out cold for maybe 30 seconds. I was able to play the next week.”
For some of those who have suffered numerous concussions, the long-term road of misery has led to suicide, while others have suffered from dementia, memory loss and crippling depression. Rice said he didn’t retire because he was starting to show any of those signs, but he came to realize that playing football was dangerous to his short-term health and long-term quality of life.
“It was more about being able to function later on down the road – to live a healthy lifestyle,” Rice said. “You know, to be able to play with my kids.”
Rice had a laundry list of injuries during his football career that included torn labrums in both shoulders, hip surgery, a torn left ACL and a torn right patella tendon. However, it was a TV segment he saw of Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, who suffers from CTE – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which results in severe memory loss – that caused to really evaluate his future.
“That was the one that caught my attention,” Rice said. “They were sitting at a stop sign two miles away from their house and they had to call their wives or their loved ones to get directions to get home. This is all from repetitive impact injury to the brain. That’s when I really started to take notice and think about a lot more.”
Rice has no regrets about his decision to retire. He achieved many of his professional goals, including winning a Super Bowl with Seattle in his final season in the NFL. He has enrolled in the master’s program in business at the University of Miami and is preparing to open seven restaurant franchises in Seattle.
He hopes that his decision to get out without inflicting any further damage to his body and mind will pay off in the long term and the gesture of donating his brain for scientific research after his death will help medical professionals better identify and treat the symptoms brought on by multiple concussions.
“There’s just a lot more research to be done to protect the next generation,” Rice said. “That’s what it’s all about – to give back and donate.”
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