When an NFL player retires from the game, the injuries and trauma sustained throughout their career are carried with them for the rest of their lives. Long after the cleats get hung up and the sound of cheering fades away, the physical and emotional pain remains and these strong, tough men are now thrust into living life like a “regular” person. Only, they’re not “regular” and while internally they might know something isn’t right with their body or mind, they’re likely to never visit a doctor on their own in order to find out what’s wrong. It’s easier to just live with the ailments and much like they did during their career, fight through the pain, or numb it.
In September of 2007, the NFL Player Care Foundation (PCF) was created by team owners, NFL Players Association, Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the NFL Alumni Association in order to recognize the contributions of former players and the impact they had on the development of the game. The PCF would become an organization that could express the NFL’s appreciation for their alumni and offer resources for any former player going through challenging times. Among the many services the PCF offers, one that stands out the most is their health and wellness support in the form of the Healthy Body & Mind Screening program. In partnership with the NFL Alumni Association and Tulane University School of Medicine, the PCF invites all former players to participate in a series of physical and mental health screenings as well as to learn about resources offered to them by the PCF.
Transformations is privileged to have also partnered with the PCF to be a resource for former players who are struggling with mental health issues and/or substance abuse. We were recently invited to participate in the Healthy Body & Mind Screening in order to speak with all the former players who would be attending to let them know who we are, that we are a place for them to get help, and that they’re not alone. We have a number of incredible tools in our arsenal, but having former players Randy Grimes and Eric Hipple on our team certainly speaks to the quality of our care and dedication we have to helping NFL alumni and all former athletes.
Randy Grimes was a center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a decade and carried his dependency on pain pills long after his career ended. What started as a way to dull the pain in order to keep playing turned into a full-blown addiction that nearly cost him his life. He facilitated the incredible partnership between Transformation and the PCF, as he owes his life to their services. “It’s such an honor to not only be involved with the Player Care Foundation, but also be a former recipient of the services they provide. They were there for me at a time in my life when all hope was nearly lost, and they helped me to restore that hope. Being involved in the behavioral side of their services during each screening allows me the opportunity to give back in a small way,” Randy shared.
Most recently, Transformations attended the screening held in Atlanta, Georgia, during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. We were fortunate enough to have been able to speak with well over 100 former players (and some of their significant others) to tell them about the services we offer as a treatment center and how we can help them or their loved ones. Belinda Lerner, the Executive Director for the NFL Player Care Foundation was gracious enough to stop by our table to not only thank us for being a presence at what we later found out to be the largest turn out they’ve had at a screening, but to share her thoughts on the event. “The NFL Player Care Foundation provides a vital service to its legends with the Healthy Body & Mind Screenings. By traveling to where the legends congregate, chapter cities, or NFL events, players are able to utilize testing that would normally cost in excess of $15,000,” Belinda explains. “But the bigger point is that most legends would not seek out medical testing on their own even if it was free. Motivation by having a sort of locker room experience again by seeing other players is the real gem of this program. And oh yes, it can save lives.”
Along with the many tests that are run for the former players who attend the screenings, each one is asked for consent to have their clinical information gathered in order to be used for research initiatives which could potentially lead to advances aiming to improve the lives of current and former players. So while these alumni are there to learn about themselves medically, they’re also further contributing to the greater good of the league, as they’ve always done. In conceding to their humanity and seeking out the proper care for their physical and mental well-being with the help of organizations such as the NFL Player Care Foundation, these legends continue to act as examples of true strength and fierce determination. And just as they inspired legions of fans on the field, so are they able to inspire their fellow NFL alumni off the field long after the last game is played.