Playing college football was a dream. Now I live with the consequences.

Photo by Tom Pennington

As a kid from a small town in Texas, playing football at the University of Tulsa was one of the most exciting opportunities of my life. It also turned out to be the costliest.

Football is a dangerous game. When we played, my teammates and I took lot of hard hits — many to the head. At the time, we thought it was just the cost of playing the game. We were never told it was a problem, so we just accepted it.

Even today, few players truly understand the risks of football. We did not know that the hits we took on the field or in practice could mean serious and permanent brain damage for us in the long run. Nor did we receive the proper treatment we should have after every hit. Nobody took the time to educate us about the long-term effects of head hits and traumatic brain injuries. We were not treated the way we deserved to be, especially considering we were still practically children, under the care of better-informed adults who were supposed to have our best interests at heart.

Only after a series of both minor and devastating collisions did the health risks of football become real for me. It was later discovered that I had suffered many concussive and sub-concussive hits throughout my football career — hits that had gone undiagnosed and untreated. Today, those hits have led to constant migraines, headaches, dizziness, anxiety and sensitivity to light and noise. It is terrifying to think of what the future may hold with more serious diseases like Alzheimer’s or ALS.

The NCAA oversees and profits from the country’s various college football programs, and it has a responsibility to educate and protect the players under its care. For years, it has systematically failed to take the lead on this serious issue despite all the information available to it for decades.

For these reasons, college football players are seeking to hold the NCAA accountable in court. Many of us are struggling with the consequences of football, and this lawsuit aims to provide relief to treat our permanent health issues. We also want to make sure our families are cared for; they have given us so much support in helping us deal with our brain injuries — often serving as our primary caregivers — so we want to make sure they are taken care of if the worst were to happen.

And we hope the lawsuit will bring greater public awareness to the health risks of football. Current and future college football players need to understand the risks they face, and there must be safeguards in place to protect them. They are, after all, just kids.

Playing football was an exciting opportunity for many of us growing up, but as we learn more about the dangers of the game, we must carefully weigh the pros and cons of playing. It is very important for parents to have access to information about the risks of football that will help them responsibly decide whether their child should play the game. For my family, the consequences of football have been devastating, and so many others are facing a similar fate. Knowing what I know today, I would not play football.

While it is too late for me, it is not for my son, who will not be playing the game that I once loved.

Donald Gobert

Former college athlete

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