Tom Brady’s wife told the media a few months ago that the Patriots’ superstar quarterback — the man atop most rankings of not only the greatest QB in NFL history but also the greatest player in NFL history — had concussions during the season that he did not disclose.
Ignoring that this goes against the NFL’s injury policy, Brady is 39 years old and is risking his life by playing football.
On Bill Simmons’ podcast Tuesday, author, philosopher and Revisionist History host Malcolm Gladwell made a passionate plea with Simmons’ beloved Brady to retire from football immediately.
“I don’t understand why that wasn’t a bigger news story,” Gladwell said, circling back to the minor headlines made by Giselle Bundchen in May. “First of all, if he had a concussion last season it was never listed on the injury report. Secondly, if he had a concussion last season he didn’t take a week off, did he? He played the next week, which is sort of surprising. But third, why isn’t there a stronger drumbeat for him to retire? The issue, people say, ‘Oh, well his arm is still as good as it was or his overall conditioning [is good].’ It’s not about the conditioning of his body below the neck. The question about him retiring is all about his brain. And if he is getting concussions at the age of 40 — concussions — and playing the next week, there are so many danger signs. I do not want to see Tom Brady at 55 drooling into a cup. But that is a real possibility if he continues to do this. And the very thing that makes him such a great player is the very thing that makes it impossible for him to stop, right? He cannot be the one … he’s not going to say, ‘I’m done.’ The Patriots have got to sit down with him and say, ‘This is bananas. You just had one of the greatest seasons ever. You should stop. We have a replacement for you. Go out on a high.'”
The argument in favor of Brady continuing to play football well into his 40s is a predictable one, coming down to personal responsibility. Simmons made that argument on the podcast in response.
“So, I’ve talked to people about this,” Simmons, a notorious Boston homer, said. “Nobody who plays sports or close to people who play sports want to go on the record in any way shape or form on this because it’s so controversial and such a hot topic right now. But the consensus seems to be that these guys will not say anything if it’s a big game. The competitiveness overrides everything else. So Brady got a concussion in the Super Bowl and he goes over and does the screen thing. He knows how to kind of fake the signs. He tells them he’s fine and he goes back in. And he’s making that choice.”
There is a clear link between concussions and CTE, the brain disease that eats away at tissue and causes early onset dementia, speech impediments and an inability to control bodily movements, and eventually death. The more an athlete receives blows to the head the more likely that athlete is to develops symptoms.
There is no way to know whether Brady will get the disease after he retires — but the only way to be sure he doesn’t improve his chances of sickness is to stop getting hit in the head.
“I’d like to play until my mid-40s,” Brady told CBS Sports after winning Super Bowl LI in February. “Then I’ll make a decision. If I’m still feeling like I’m feeling today, who knows? Now, those things can always change. You do need long-term goals, too. I know next year is not going to be my last year.”