The stories are becoming all too familiar. Highly accomplished ex-professional football players, seemingly invincible at the peaks of their careers, struggling with their health as they get older, the game taking its toll on them long after they’ve stopped playing.
The latest example is Jim Plunkett, once a No. 1 overall draft pick in the NFL who quarterbacked the Raiders (first in Oakland and later in Los Angeles) to two Super Bowl titles, winning MVP honors the first time, a 27-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV.
Plunkett, 69, is the subject of a profile in Friday’s Mercury News in which he discusses being in constant pain, remembering 10 concussions suffered while assuming there were many more and saying: “My life sucks. It’s no fun being in this body right now. Everything hurts.”
The latest malady to afflict Plunkett, who has undergone 18 surgeries, is Bell’s palsy, which a neurologist told him is the main factor behind his pulsating headaches. It’s another link in the chain for 1970 Heisman Trophy winner, whose daily regimen of medication is tough to read.
He takes six pills in the morning, seven at night for his heart, blood pressure and other problems. Plunkett usually takes an opioid to play a round of golf, but otherwise stays away from the addictive painkillers. In early summer, he even tried hemp oil for a month but stopped when he didn’t see any results.
“There are a couple other drugs I take — I can’t know them all,” he said. “I’ve got to take them every day to quote-unquote survive.”
Plunkett’s wife, Gerry, fears that her husband is showing signs of traumatic brain injury. The potential ravages of a football career have affected important figures in his life, from former teammate and fellow quarterback Ken Stabler, who died in early 2016 and was diagnosed with CTE during a postmortem brain exam, to one-time 49ers receiving great Dwight Clark, who suffers from ALS.
“I don’t know what there is to do,” Plunkett told the Mercury News. “If it happens, it happens. I don’t know how you stop it at this point.”
Plunkett is among those who signed on to the concussion lawsuit settlement against the NFL, which resulted in a monetary award of somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion. Of NFL retirees, he told the Mercury News that he feels the league must “help take care of these people.”
(h/t The Mercury News)