James A. Holstein, Richard S. Jones, and George Koonce, Jr.
Is There Life After Football?
Surviving the NFL
New York University Press 2014
The health of former NFL players has received plenty of attention in recent years. The suicides of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, along with stories of retired players in only their 40s and 50s affected by dementia and ALS, have revealed the toll that a professional football career can take on a man’s body and brain. In their new book Is There Life After Football? Surviving the NFL (New York University Press, 2014), James Holstein, Richard Jones, and George Koonce, Jr., discuss the discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy as well as other physical problems that afflict former NFL players. Yet the most stunning finding of their research is not how life in football affects players’ health, but rather how it affects their ability to find and hold a job, to maintain relationships, even to engage in basic social interactions.
The research leading to the book began with George Koonce, a nine-year veteran of the NFL. George’s career ended like those of most NFL players, not with a press conference announcing his retirement but with word from his last team that they “were moving in a different direction” and then a long wait for another team to call. After finally accepting that his playing days were over, he went on to earn his doctorate at Marquette University, writing his dissertation on the transitions of players into and out of professional football. Jim and Rick joined with their former graduate student to expand the research, accumulating thousands of pages of interview transcripts with former NFL players. The result is a candid look inside the “bubble” of NFL life and then the difficulties experienced by former players–men in only their late 20s and early 30s–when they leave that isolated, abnormal world.