Playing in the NFL is a dream come true for most of the players who make it to this level of playing. Playing a long, fulfilling career is a dream that's even more exclusive and hardly a guarantee even with the skill and determination required to make it happen. So much can go so wrong. But in the end, if you can retire on top, then you can be proud of everything you have accomplished.
But ... it's not all perfect from there. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, now 59 years old and more than two decades removed from his retirement from the NFL, recently spoke with USA Today about the damage his body took in the league and how that has affected him all these years later.
Montana is obviously a guy doing quite well for himself at this stage of his life, but reading about his health issues is just depressing. Fortunately, it doesn't sound like there is a lot of brain trauma, which is the obvious concern with the NFL today, but there are a host of other ailments.
Montana talks about half a dozen surgeries on his knee, arthritis in his elbows, knees and hands, elbow surgery and the three neck fusions he's had to date. He also said that he thinks he's going to need another neck fusion due to nerve damage, and he has nerve damage in one of his eyes as well.
Make no mistake, a healthy 59 year old man who keeps himself in good shape will certainly have his aches and pains, but what Montana is describing is certainly not the norm, especially considering he hopes to lead an active lifestyle after retiring from the league. He said that he thought he left early enough to live an active life, but that he's unable to surf or ski with his sons, and laments being unable to play basketball outside of standing still and shooting.
It's rough stuff, and another reminder that the NFL has a hefty price to pay if you stick around long enough. I recommend giving the full thing a read, though it will definitely bum you out.