With all the talk about the incidence of head injuries in the NFL, it’s becoming more and more common to ask why NFL athletes continue to play the game. For the glory? For the money? But how much glory and money does it take to justify losing not just one’s health, but one’s mind?
Increasingly, it’s easy to think that the main reason NFL players continue to play the game is because they have no other options. And while that may be true of many players, it certainly isn’t true of John Urschel, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, who holds a master’s degree in math who publishes his ongoing math research in professional journals:
Naturally, I believe that I have a certain insight into this dilemma, due to my non-athletic pursuits. In particular, I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in mathematics, all with a 4.0, and numerous published papers in major mathematical journals. I am a mathematical researcher in my spare time, continuing to do research in the areas of numerical linear algebra, multigrid methods, spectral graph theory and machine learning. I’m also an avid chess player, and I have aspirations of eventually being a titled player one day.
It is a simple truth. Playing a hitting position in the NFL can’t possibly help your long-term mental health.
With all of these interests outside of the sport, I am often asked why I play football, how I feel about brain injury, and if that’s something I think about…
So why does he play the game? Read the whole column to find out.