Your Own Best Advocate

With the recent announcement of the retirement of 24 year old Minnesota Vikings player Asher Allen, this brings to mind a conversation I had a number of years ago regarding the issue of the state of a person knowing the value of their own life versus the desire for a high paycheck and a glorious career in sports. At what points is a person’s personal health and safety valued higher than the desire to achieve accolades and acclaim? Who cares for you when the lights on your career has concluded?


Health (Photo credit: 401K)

The Associated Press reported in December of 2010 that NFL data revealed an increase in concussions; 154 in all, which translates into about 24% over the previous year and about 35% over 2008. In October of 2010 The New York Times reported a study done in 2000 which showed that in nearly 1100 players interviewed, 60% had suffered one concussion and 26% had three or more. A Report submitted at the Institute for Social Research University of Michigan states in the area of arthritis diagnosis, “Rates are nearly five times higher among young retirees compared to men in the general population, and twice as high at older ages.” This report goes on to say that one in four have joints replaced.

Will there be an inevitable push to have players retire early due to life altering injuries, or will it continue to be something left in the hands of the individual player, as the clamor of fans increases for the gruff, tumble and clash of titans on the field? Will the exiting of Allen cause NFL players and others in high impact sports take a second look at the risks to their long term health? Will they value quality of life in later years over the big paycheck today?

It’s not only a clarion call to the professional athletes, but to all of us who live active lives. What are we saying to ourselves and those we love when we risk life and limb in the pursuit of money? Are we really securing our family’s future if it leads to a life filled with life long hospital visits and medical treatments? Are we robbing our children and theirs when we subject ourselves to things that prevent us from the ability to be fully active and engaged?

Even as the increase in the reporting of sports related injuries escalates, my mind recalls a series of wrestlers of bygone years who were coming forth with the stories of living with injuries that they were neither able to manage through proper health care or insurance. Seeing what the years of hits and slams had done to many of the guys in the wrestling profession makes me wonder if hindsight has led any of them to regret what they’ve endured or if it was worth it all.

You have to admit that there is little difference between what they face in a physical sense compared to that of a soldier; the injury, the mental anguish and deep depression, substance abuse, the alienation and isolation from those who can’t really relate with what they’ve had to deal with in the course of a career.

It behooves us to take note of what is happening with these athletes and give attention to how much we value our own health. We truly are our own best advocates when it comes to our health. When I’ve faced certain health crises due to living with Sickle Cell Disease, there were times I had to determine if I was willing to allow my job run me into an early grave or if I was going to care enough to know when to walk away. In the end, a company is always in the position of being able to easily replace you, even if you think you’re irreplaceable, you can be replaced. The question is going to be whether you can live with leaving on your own terms or stay beyond your you usefulness to both the company and your family.

QUESTION: Do you consider yourself to be your own best health advocate? What does that look like?

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