Sun. May 26th, 2024

Image: “Tom Brady WFT-Buccaneers NOV2021 (cropped)” by All-Pro Reels is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

More and more in the ranks of professional football, we are seeing athletes begin to retire at continuously younger ages to protect their bodies. For example, we’ve seen Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck retire at the age of 29 in 2019. Keep in mind, he was one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He was among the most highly touted college quarterback prospects of all time and was shattering records from the moment he stepped foot on an NFL field. And quarterback is the position Tom Brady was able to play professionally until he was 44 years old.

In Luck’s case, his pain stemmed from an injury to his throwing shoulder and many other injuries over the years, including a lacerated kidney and torn cartilage in his ribs. He was among the most sacked quarterbacks in the league during his playing days, so I was surprised to learn that there was really only one reported concussion that he sustained during his career. Luckily for him, it appears that he made the right decision and escaped without any long-term damage or repercussions. Nowadays, Luck is a part-time football coach at Palo Alto High School in California. Have other athletes taken notice and decided to follow in Luck’s footsteps, especially with the increased awareness of head injuries and their impact? It appears so.

Another high profile case of an NFL player retiring early was Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. He retired even younger than Luck did, at age 28, after already cementing himself as one of the greatest defensive players of all time. He was a five-time All Pro, seven-time pro bowler, a Defensive Rookie of the Year winner, a Defensive Player of the Year winner and even made a Super Bowl appearance with the Panthers in 2016. He made his living over the middle of the field, where he would oftentimes collide helmet-to-helmet with the opposition when attempting to make a tackle. This caused three concussions in three consecutive seasons, which ultimately led to his decision to retire. The most heartbreaking of these instances that has been seared in many football fans’ minds is the 2016 game against the New Orleans Saints, where Kuechly suffered a concussion. He was seen in tears as he was carted off of the field. 

In his post-football career, Kuechly is taking it into his own hands to spread awareness about brain injuries. In an article from 2023 by The Athletic, Kuechly attended a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill to bring awareness to traumatic brain injuries. His goal, as he stated, is to “help people that have had similar experiences as me, whether it’s guys that get them or guys that come back from it in sports or in the military.” Kuechly has also invested in products that were invented for the purpose of reducing concussions, such as the Q-Collar, which he wore during his career.  


Colin Bradley is a fourth year English major with a minor in Journalism.

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