Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 2 years ago

Eugene Robinson and Dr. Ross Zafonte

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Former NFL free safety and Super Bowl Champion, Eugene Robinson joins our show along with Dr. Ross Zafonte. Dr. Zafonte is a renowned expert in brain trauma and is currently working with Eugene on the Harvard Football Players Health Study. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

All Right, joining us today in the huddle. My Co host day cannot make it today, so I will be doing the interview all by my lonesome today in the huddle. Joining us is Eugene Robinson. You may remember him from the Seattle Seahawks to Green Bay packers, Atlanta Falcons or Caroline Panthers. He had an unbelievable sixteen year career. He was a three time pro bowl or two time all pro. He in one thousand nine hundred and ninety three he led the League and interceptions, which is amazing. He was a super bowl champion and three time NFC champion and he made the anniversary team with the Seattle seahawks. Just incredible career. Can't wait to hear some of his stories. Very passionate about helping players. Now and then we also have Dr Ross Zafonte. Dr Savante is a just he's been published extensively on dramatic brain injuries. He is now the Vice President Medical Affairs of spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Chief of physical medicine and Rehabilitation Massachusetts General Hospitals. I can't read all these, I mean is his CV's way too long for me, but Eugene and Ross are working together on the football players health study at Harvard University. They're trying to figure out what is going on with the players by asking questions, getting some subjective questionnaires out to players and trying to get them to be involved so that they can find things that may help us as we age, as we get old or as we're even playing. So today on our show, joining us in the huddle Dr Rossafante and Eugene Robinson. So Doctors Afante, Eugene. I appreciate you guys getting in a huddle with me today and I really want to start and by asking Eugene first, you know, what was that spark when you were kid, when you were growing up? I think you're from Connecticut, right, sir, when you were growing up in Connecticut was what was that spark that had you a love of sports, and that's really have to be football. But what was that for you? It was and there's some of the like he's running back. Took Forman number forty four. His spin move I walk, some do a spin movement. It's maybe Dallas cowboys of Washington and fell in love without happen to be like maybe eight, nine years old. As I want to do that and I would outside spin moves. Well, that started my journey, one of good play football and I was really sparking and my brother was really good, my cousin was really good and I was always run it after them, but I wanted to be too forman and that's what started about love. Nice, Nice. What about you, Dr Defonte so? And I think team sports are awesome. I played in high school about pipe football and baseball and then sus whatly went on and playing a little bit of baseball. Try to add tras in college and then, and you know, my son is the college hockey player and I think that they are in something special about Teen State based sport. They bring us together. They he just had to work for a goal and in many ways they transformed the way we think about sal and goals towards others, and what you see is a lot of people who participate in team based sports are more successful in the end. Yeah, no, I agree, and a lot of our guests we talked about when we were young, how we used to just go outside, get all our friends in our neighborhood and we would just go play whatever game that was. There were no parents, there were no rests. We had to figure everything out for ourselves. Can you guys kind of tell me a story about what you remember from being a kid and how that kind of helped you through your life a little bit? So let me let me start hero offs, because I remember my brother telling me we were playing football and I came out. I was in a hood where there was a lot of brick buildings. It was a lot of submit, very few Greek pastors, we will, and we were playing football in the parking...

...lot, I guess, two other friends and we were down seven points and my brother told me. He said, look, it only takes one play changes game around. And I was behind the electric two hundred and twenty five car P two hundred and twenty five. I was behind that. I started my pattern. My pattern was an out route. That's the corner oute behind it to two hundred and twenty five. He throws the ball to me. I catched it. I think out one guy. I school test out. My brother came back to me said see, that's what I'm telling you. It only takes one play to change the story. One place that don't you can't forget that. You see one place change. I've never ever forgotten that lesson and I have been. He was sending your vote and I was a l that's great. I love that. What about you, doc? So I think one of the things that I can remember the kid it's going outside and playing, you know, baseball, all day long, all night long, and had he called in at nine pm at night. And I think exactly as you said, guess it teaches us to work with other people, a teaches us to solve our problems, it teaches us to have a common goal and it's Eugene said, it teaches us residence right. He didn't give up. One play can change anything and I think that, you know, concern is, are we losing some elements of that tea change? I think so. I think that is a concern because most of my guests that I've talked to all tell the same stories that you guys have told, and they said that's one thing when they have kids and and they don't see them going out, they don't see him playing, because all of our sports are organized now. Absolutely they don't learn those things that when you're with your friends and you get that punch to the gut, whether it's you fall down, you got to get back up or you're leading your team and everybody's counting on you. There's nobody there that's going to call time out or that's going to, you know, call fly all and you get seconds. It just you play and you figure it out and it teaches you how to pull yourself back up off the ground and that's that's I think it's fine on and I think that's a little bit of what we're missing today. And so we all a lot of people played sports when they're young. What do you guys think that why so many people fall off when they go into high school? Why they fall off and don't continue to play athletics? Well, I think it's I think today it's very different. You guys things that militated against your your ability if you wanted to play football, and we just sat my football. I mean there's so many things you can get involved in and it's push from Paris and find a right fit for their child, to find the right thankful the child kids. I remember doing three sports. I mean I was going baseball, football and wrestling. All Right, I did that all throughout my high school career. Kids now they concentrate on baseball, the COPS curate on football. The copsentrate on basketball. That's it, because that's their ticket. And then with social media and education, all the things, there's a lot of things that militate against what I used to be able to deal with. This just go have fun as a kid and enjoy all three sports, enjoy my high school years as opposed of it's being such a holly focus. Get into college, e three level thing. That's what has become a little bit more so as pose to the fun that I've been used to as a kid. So I think Eugene's Finn I mean think about guys. All these kids now are programs from when they're very, very young, and all the data from our side, from the medical science side, keeps suggesting that hyper specialization is a young person is a bad thing, and yet we keep encouraging it. Nobody had the experience Eugene had played free sports and needs at least playing kid. Everybody is is doing the same thing all the time, eleven months a year,...

...and that's just not good for them. Yeah, I think there was something so special about playing multiple sports I had. I just interviewed Christine Brennan, who writes for USA Today. She's been, you know, one of the first female writers covering the Redskins and a bunch of people. She told me you in high school she played six sports wow to every season because when she was growing up in the s the girls athletics weren't as important as the boys and the coach was the same coach for three of the sports and she wanted Christine to play everything. So she'd go from one to the next to the next, and you just can't do that now now. I mean I'm and it starts too young guys. So, for example, football maybe one thing, but in example, you're in, you're in western Pennsylvania, hockey. They start hyper specializing those kids extremely early on. Well, they do not be good. Well, and what happened to the coach? Says, all this person has talent in this sport and so you just need to focus on this sport and not be go do the rest of your stuff. But what happens to that, I think, is you lose socialization by when you go play other sports. I mean I played basketball with kids. I wanted them to play football with me but they didn't. But I've got to be friends with multitude of kids because I played major sports and I think we lose a little bit of that. Socialization is so important for kids today and when they're stuck behind the screen they lose a lot of that. I agree. And you can't find your niche. I mean what if you what if football is not your thing, but it might be wrestling. I was not. I mean when I went to college I was five eight, I wait a hundred and fifty pounds. I was a wrestling high school and I was a really, really good wrestler. But wrestling allowed me to play football because nobody knew I could tackle it. I can hit this hard because I was a wrestling nobody even care that I was a wrestler. I would submit to you wrestling was one of the best things I ever could do if I wanted to train to be a football player. It took me how angles and taught me hand fighting and it taught me how to go ahead and tackle correctly. What guys now try to go out and learn how to tackle correctly. I didn't always do it, but it taught me how to do it. And so, from that standpoint, plan another sport, wrestling, and I for me this wrestling was really, really good and I found my mits as being a small guy who really didn't play until I was a junior because I was too small. Yeah, you know, my my father inlaw coach High School football for forty two years and he made most of his football players wrestle because he understood that there's no other way to get that flexibility in your hips. Smart Man. Yeah, and he always had good football teams because those kids and his linement were always the biggest, toughest guys, but they were linebackers. They you know, everybody played both ways and wrestling was a key to that. I think that that that cross disciplinary, Multiple Sport, hand eye strength of being able to see a number of different facial spatial things that's going that's really impaired if you just do one thing and and you Jean Stories, write a perfect one right. So before we get into like your next transition out of high school and things like that, I want to ask you what we've asked most of our guests, and I think we're a hundred percent on it, that if you guys played whiffleball when you were kids, yes, and we want to bring it back. Are My cohost, Dave is and here he's visiting his dad in Arizona this week. But we love whiffleball. We think it's so much fun and you can pick it up. And I had the CEO of n EP on, Kevin Rabbit, and we played golf a few times and everywhere we go he's like that would be a perfect will football field. But you know, it's a game that, hey, look,...

...we don't have to get violent, you don't have to go out and tapple somebody or, you know, like basketball, but you can have a lot of fun and pick teams and learn a lot from that game. And and so I'm glad we're staying a hundred percent that. You guys have played when you were kids and there will solt wifball was so inclusive. I mean we play Whi football, so the boys and the girls, we all played together. And now hood and we played. What's the ball? Yeah, because it didn't matter. Didn't matter. The other thing about whippa ball that I think that that sort of a really cool idea is not only did you play as a kid, but really it's something you could keep going as you get older. Right and and if we think about it, a lot of people don't love running and some people giving up movement. They're giving up movement too early and and what football might keep people active even later. But I think also it adds to your hand eye coordination totally. I mean you think about how much a whiffleball can break and you know and you watch all these you know you're watching baseball today. You say, how's this guy strike out every time? You can't hit a curveball, but you must never played wolfball. Then you know, play Whiffoba all the time. Things going twelve to six straight down, but you know. And then part of our show is really about transitions that we all go through. Right, you go from being young and then also in you're entering high school, then you're entering college. In all these transitions make us who we are today. And for Eugene, you sports played a huge role in your career, in your life. Well's that transition like, going from high school to College? You know, I walked on. Most people don't know that I walked on. When I got to college I asked the coach can I come out? They were at co get university. They were a little him and the hall a little bit because I was very, very small. I was five eight one forty seven, one hundred and fifty and so I didn't look the part. Nothing screamed that you want this guy on your team. Well, coach allowed me to come out. Coach Down Laugh allowed me to come out and I was like one of the only three guys out of their recruit recruiting class of twenty six to make the Varsity team. And it was because, I don't know, I was good and I remember his a great story for you. I remember when they laughed me out of the gym at Col get university because I could I never used to lift weights. I was a wrestler but I never lived weights, and I remember I struggled to lift one hundred and thirty five, which is the standard. I've spoken lift that one time. I lift it one time and I said what can tire locker room. They laughing fell out and this is what I said. I said, all right, I'll see you on a football field. I don't know these guys and they don't know me and I was hurt and mad. I went on a football field. People are still laughing going, but that's getting you do gonna do. I was wanting the only people to make the Varsity team because I could tackle, I was tough, but I never lift weights, and so that was kind of like the beginning of my journey of football and I just got progressively better and when I became back to the Christian I got even better because of football becomeing. It just became a little bit more. I thought of it, thought of it differently and when I my junior year with things change for my life totally. So there is it's been a great story for me and I love my transition from college, let me, to high school to college and then ultimately into the propel well, Eugene. It goes to show that that football necessarily isn't about how much weight you can lift, it's about what's inside your chest. You know that's right. You know because that's right. I seen a lot of guys who aren't the biggest and the best in the weight room, but there you go downline a field and you don't want anybody else beside you, then that guy. That's right. And sometimes people when you when you go and you start looking at stats and analytics and all that, and they said, well, this guy can benches, some jump, this sigh and everything that gets to me. That gets thrown out the window because I want that guy. It's going to give me everything you got every play. Oh, I'm totally with you, and I was always that guy because I wasn't...

I didn't have the measurables and because I didn't have the measurables, I felt a little out of place, but when I was on the field I felt totally right at home. Right, exactly. So, so, doc when you were in high school, you said you played sports in high school. You transition and go into into college. Did you play sports in College? was that a heart transition for you? Did you did you always know what you wanted to do? Now, I sort of discovered what I want to do. Like a lot of people, I tried out for baseball in college and stuck around for a little while and I think, I think, what what I figured out was I wanted to help people and I wanted to help people. I learned that through a number of lessons. I learned that through family members being sick and I learned that through fellow athletes being injured and hurt. I wanted to figure out a way that we could help people recover and do a little bit better. Right now. That's so important and as you're going through your journey in college, what was that point that really made you want to help people, like did something happen to you? Happen to a friend of yours, or really made that all come to fruition for you. Yeah, so, I mean I think I had a bad week and sometimes, you know, as Eugene said, resilience is really an important thing. So I had a really good friend who was, you know, injured in a car accident and then subsequently had another friend who was tours ACL and and you know, back then probably didn't do quite as well. And then my grandfather had a stroke in the same week and and sort of putting all of that stuck together, said well, what can I do to sort of combat all of these issues? And and and I took on and trying to get into medicine, but but really also trying to say how do we do batter right, you know, and and I have two people with me here today. Like Eugene, you going from college and you go on to play sixteen years in the NFL doc you take your medical career and I know how intensive and hard that is and all the studies you have to do as a in psychiatry. It's difficult and you guys both perfected your craft. Eugene. One thing I always say is, you know, I don't have a PhD, but I have one in football. Yes, you do, and you know it was twenty five years long in the making. And and so how do you know? And I look at you guys and it's different, but it's the same. So it is. Just talk a little bit about that. Yeah, well, what the indoctrination process of football? You start when you're young. We talked about being unsupervisors kids and playing football and then you get into organized football. But there's a host of things that go along with it. There is an academic portion of football that most people don't know. You think there's just a physicality. You just run out there, there's no place, there's no scheme, there's no chest, it is ultimate chess. And there's an academic process that if you could understand the academics of football along with the physicality and athleticism of it, you could be a very, very good player. I understood that quickly early in my career. I got that in high school that I had to be really, really smart. I got that. But what it would it let this self was to is that there is a host of things that you do as a football player that in a split second that the most common person would not be able to do or couldn't perform because you're under too much stress and you have to apply the academics, the physicality, the moment to stress, all that roll up to one to make the right decision. We do that gus every single day. We train ourselves to do that and to handle that stress and to handle that, all that volatility and the handle and the be right. Almost every single time we're typically...

...we're wrong, but if we're wrong, we didn't beat by somebody maybe a little bit better who happened to be right. So from that standpoint, I always say this, and I said this and I'll say this forever, that football players are some of the smartest people that you know. I mean they can go into any industry, I think, and what the level of education they have because they been a football player, be able to apply that and find their way to be successful in any discipline. There's no doubt there's too much stuff you got to know, there's too much stuff you got to learn, you know, and the only thing that militates against that is what's happening concurrently, currently, and now to football, with the cognition cardiac stuff, sleet Atnia, immobility with knees and whatnot. That's the only thing that militates against that narrow of we're just put it out right. So so doctors font that. Can you give me a little bit of that kind of what that was like for you? So as you go through your journey of in medicine and comparing that to to what Eugene was talking about? Well, I think I think that's it's stunningly similar. Right. So it's not as much of the physical premise, although the stamina part of it in some ways is right. You got to stay focused, you got to stay up for crazy hours. Your work hours or are pretty substantial. But but there's a theme here that we didn't touch on. Both things teach mental discipline. If you're not following a regiment, if you're not training, if you're not studying, if you're not following program there the the most talented people don't always make it. It's the most talented who want to work hard, who have the heart for it, who are successful in both football and medicine right now. I think that's a common theme. No, it really is, because I understand it my daughters in vet school at pain she's going birth, she's going into a third year and I'm, you know, being in being teaching human anatomy, you learn one anatomy, but invet school she had to learn foreign atomies at the same time. So it's very difficult. And then her boyfriend is getting these mdphd in Cincinnati right now. So I understand like that process and how many years that takes, you know, and when you guys are just ramping up doc and getting to that that end period for where you can go be on your own. As football players, we're just finishing right. So you're starting to transition. That's new and I can go be free from, you know, the academic side. But you're always learning and in football we're saying okay, we're transitioning away from what we loved into something else, and sometimes it's coaching, sometimes whatever it's. I think it's a really interesting, interesting transition when I have both you on that, you know, one is being born again, like you're you're out there, and the other one is saying, Oh man, I'm at the end, I got to figure out what's next. Absolutely so I think that's important and it goes to some of the things that Eugene was talking about this transitions time for players that we're trying to study. It our study and gene it's so kind to be an advisor for. is a really big thing. When we think about that period of time where people leave football, it's very much like the military. It's very much like all of it. A sudden you're out and being out isn't so easy. It's not easy on a number of different things and and it's one of the things that we're trying to understand. How do we help people during that time? How is that for you, doc as far as when you transition, like you go through your residency and and then all of a sudden you got to figure out, like where am I going next? Are and that hunt for that next like when you left, I think you were in south Florida, right. Yeah, did you go to pit next, or was it after? Now? I went to New York next as a trainee. But but I think that that point of where you're going next is, you...

...know, it's this unexplored country. But the advantage we have is you can sort of select a or B, or c or D or e. But I think for performer players, when they leave, it is a little bit more of a clip statement and it's a little bit harder and I think we need to think about how do we help people when they when they make that change. Right. What do you what do you think about that? Eugene? Well, it's interesting as a listen to duct as he's talking about Russell, as he's talking, and I could just only think about when he is beginning his career. I'm ending my career, but when I end my career I got a whole host of things that's associated with my career that I have to know contend with. That we're now could ultimately chase the success in the direction of my my life. As he's in his career, he's going to be now studying the things that can affect me because his his education is specifically for that which I am now pursuing with endeavors, pursuing what problems I might have. So I think is kind of interesting that I need him to finish up his stuff because he needs to help me get right and move forward in my life right. And if you think about we have all these stressors, we have different stressors, like as a football player, when I left the game in two thousand and eight. I said, all right, I'm going to go help my kids and coach them, and then I don't know what's next. And you have a bank account. That's okay, and and some of that stress is not there. As a as a doctor and you're leaving school, you might have a lot of that horrible thank and that stress is unreal, you know. So there's all these different stresses that affect US mentally. And what do you have? Some I mean, they're not the same, but they are similar in a way, don't you think? Doc I think that's exactly right. How we deal with spat stress goes back to some of those concepts that we touched on the beginning of the conversation about resilience, about learning to deal with things, about what happens if you get punched the get up. But but stress, for us it's very different. It might be that financial stress of owing a pile of money as you get out. It might be the stress that many of the elements of performance and what people have to deal with on a daily basis in the hours are are very bad these days. And how to teach young people to deal with all of those these and pursue a life in in former players situation. A lot of this dress is everything that's familiar to me is changed and, as Jeene said, I have some medical issues and and bio, kind of psycho social, some stuff that I made on an individual basis need to deal with. And how do I deal with those things? Because I never really thought about this trust when I left the League and I'm thirty eight years old. I never thought about it. But when when guys that I knew were having problems, well, that was cognition sleep at near my roommate was Reggie White, who would have passed away at age forty three. Right. So what I went when I looked at it and I'm going, Oh my goodness, I'm saying, hold up, am I what have I signed up for? And that's something I never even thought about. Entered my mind, that that the mortality rate of a football player could be very it could be very, very quick, that this could be a short lived I never thought about that until I actual the football and until I saw people around me, piers, older guys who are now having problems and who end up passing away or we're sick, I was like wow, this is a very, very real thing. A bear and that just added more stressed and to my life, as I still got...

...a job, still need to get a job to take care of my faith and too, jeans point. I mean I think I think people are in you know, just there's so much in the media these days. But there's a lot of things that perhaps we're finding and others are fine ending, that football players are susceptible to, but many of them actually can be dealt with and and can improve somebody's quality of life in the near term while we're trying to find some global answers right exactly. And I think that family plays a big part of that, whether it's the person you marry or there you know, you're significant other, your kids, Eugene, you know in the NFL the divorce rate is very high. Yeah, and I think a lot of guys focus so hard on what they love is that they forget about what's at home and then all of a sudden their home, they're not going into work every day and they're like, okay, what do I do with these guys, you know, and they have a real issue. One of the things that I've always done. I played for seven teams and I made sure my family was with me every time we moved. That's good because I knew they I had to they were going to be there for me through thick and thin, and I wanted to make sure that I didn't ever miss something or be without them, because I knew that I saw too many guys leave that, leave that that locker room and without their family and just say, you know what, it's not going to end good for them and you, no matter how much you talk to him. It's so important. And even in the medical community, dock, you know you, like you said, there's so many it's time that you have to spend to learn and understand and develop what your skills are. That if you may have met someone and then you have a family, it's you know, you guys are not with them as much as as you want to be. Older. Oh No, our our rates of familial concerns are very high. But but you guys both bring up a really important thing, which he is that and genie has seen this. People social connectivity, how they're connected to their community, their families, is a big determined them of how well they do. Social isolation is not a good thing for your house and whether you're a physician or a former player. I think we need to get at that a little bit more and let me just let me, let me just say that most football players, when they come out of the League, and I've experienced this and I've seen a number of guys experience this, is that they feel like they by themselves because what you leave and the fl this no one's beaten down your door, no was. You don't have the same fan fair people not asking for your autographs. Hopefully you did well in college and hopefully you make connections and network so that you could get and move in, but that transition to leaving the national football league can be very, very lonely and I remember, as a number of guys I know, won't call the names, who will just absolutely alone. It felt like, Oh man, I give him my whole life to football and is that and nobody gives a hoot about me right now. There's a social depression that happens after words when you leave the National Football League, that it could be the Bilitin. That could be absolutely scary and feel like you're alone, and that's some of the last gape Gust that we have. That's one of the reasons why Reggie white came out of retirement. He was like he's a comment when he was retied. Will you do what you're doing to all? We call him me and then he goes back unverties it, gets back in nasal football league for two years. Well, I understand that loneliness. I get it of not having that connection. I totally did it from a football standpoint. He had a stabiles, yes, but it was a different connection that he was missing up my look, get football out of your system, because what's this? God is gone and then you have to do something else. And that's one of the stress that we have talked about. was that kind of alluded to, about that loneliness that football players still even a month all of the fanfare that you get, there's a loneliness wash you leave the league. They're there, really is. And if you don't have that...

...community set up, if you don't have that family set up, then when you do leave the league, the teams are moving on. Yes, they are. They're going to have a legends day or alumni day once once a year, right for one game, but the rest of the time they're moving on because they got new players coming in, they have money to make. It's a business and that's one of the things that I really noticed that some of these alumni organizations are doing a better job of understanding. Is, you know, with the legends community and the NFL alumni that we have to find ways to create a new community and with with the chapters in different cities. I think that's so important and not just to do you functions for you know, it's great to go and say hey, we're going to give you a new shirt and we're going to go to the Gulf whatever, but it's doing something different. Let's let's do something a little more and bring that community feelback into guys, aren't lonely, because you do miss the locker room. When you've been a part of a locker room for a long time, you really miss it. I watched hard knocks the other night. I wats all three episodes of my daughters when I was babysitting our dogs and I'm like God, I really miss like the fun of being in practice and John with people and doing all that. But but you know, guys, to both of your points it that's among the things that we're trying to study and understanding that transitions point, because jeans dead on and I think you are to guys. That moment that people transition, they miss something, and I think it's the bonding with others. It's, you know, the commentary, the Jos link to others, the kind of things you see on hard knocks. It's not as much, and you guys would have to tell me that direct hitting. It's it's that I miss the connectivity, the purpose, my friends, a common bonding, and that actually means something to people here. Yeah, I think loneliness can be a real deterrent to mentor of Mental Health, and it just and and other forms of health. Guss, I think it has a global health impact beyond just mental health. He and be for sure well, and I think that's right. We all have our phone, we're on it, we're you know, we're doing things, we're not communicating. How many often if you guys gone to dinner and you see people just not even communicating and talking? Yeah, and we're not sure that texting takes the place of what we all grew up with, which was sitting around the table or talking with a bunch of guys or being in the corner sharing a purpose. I'm not sure it's quite the same. Right. So how do you guys feel the study is really going after some of those issues that we've talked about. But before Russ says let me, let me tell you why I got into study and wanted to be a part of the study. Okay, so long I've always been an advocate of the national football league and I remember striking back in one thousand nine hundred and eighty seven. I came Insan nine hundred and eighty five. My Mentor Day Brown. He really kind of helped walk me through becoming a NFL Rep. I've always was thinking about advancing the national football league to where it is now. That guys get you getting pay like crazy right, better benefits and the things that nature. Once I got out, I saw some of the things and meladies and things that we were facing as players. And then when I had the opportunity, through another good friend of mine, to Milanta, let's archer bro he say hey, man, Harve is doing study commission by the desk by the Players Association to find out what's wrong with the old guys and see what cup of Solucia as they can come up with some type of things, therapies they can come up with the help the old guys. I said I got to be on board because I want to advance the national football league. I want to be a part of that conversation where if guys have cognitive issues, cardiac issues, mobility issues, filling a long stress all those things, that not tate a guess the old guy, as I'm in that group, the old guy. I want to be able to help advance that going forward and I found a nice fit. Would Harvard,...

...who was doing some really, really good working out the duct Ross, particulate some of the work that they're doing, but we'd do was a really good work. And this is what I felt. Man, these guys care about me. These guys are concerned about what I think. These guys concerned about what happens to me, as opposed to what your football player and when you're out, nobody really cares about you, because they care about the guys, but they deal with the crop that they have right now, the current players, right what Harvard? That has not been the case and that's why I got involved. So thanks, gene. They I mean, I think that's a great description. I think the reality is that what we've tried to do is listen to former players, understand what's happened to people like that. Transitions time like other elements, and we're not just a single thing. So this is the largest study of former players ever undertaken by a significant amount. And then what we've done really is to think about well, it's not just I'm interested only in their head or only in their knees or only in their ankle. You know, people are people and we care about those people and how we make them better. So it's really that your heart interacts with your brain and the way you interacts up here and the pain you're feeling might have an impact on here and your heart, and that if we can take some of these kinds of things away, we might be improving people's quality of life, which is what we really care about. So to us this has been the whole player, the whole life. We're interested in how people interact with their family, we're interested if they're depressed, we're interested in how their brains are functioning. We're interested in the fact that many have hypertension. We're interested in the fact they have sleep, apnee and pain, and how do those things affect each other? All Right, so, doc you're doing all these great things. Some of the tests are subjective, some of them are objective. Now, when a player comes in and he is part of the questionnaires and the surveys and and getting testing, what comes back to the player? What do you guys doing back for the player? Are you saying, okay, well, you have all these issues and problems and you probably know them. I mean, it's your life, but here's what we're going to do to help you get through this. What are you doing, Philly, mad so that's that's a phenomenal question because what we've done is we've made a real big focus about results return. Eugene has been a part of some of these calls, some of the things we're trying to broadcast out. So we have one domain where we've done some of the work from those surveys and we're trying to send out all the time information to people. Are Having calls with people, having opportunity meetings within, you know, chapters and various regions. How do we tell people about what they should do for their health based on what we've learned? And then, secondarily, for the Group of people that we bring to Boston who are kind enough to, you know, do a little bit more testing, here's what we do. We sit down with them and at the end and we go through their results and say, Hey, you know, my friend, this one is fine, you're okay here, this one might be a little bit off. I think I think we should have you follow up in the following way with this person or that person and then we try to bridge some of that attachment so we don't just leave people with stranded in some ways. The other part of it that I think you bring up really well is okay, when we find something, we want people to begin to address it. So, you know, among the things that are all over the media is that, you know, everybody is first having problems with with their brain. Well, it turns out that, at least in some studies that we've found it, a bigger cause of problems is their cardiovascular health early on. Right. You know, I agree with that. and Eugene, and what do you think? What are you doing? I mean...

...you're a former player. How do you feel the study has helped you, you know, by going through this? Well one it just helps address issue use that most guys are having. When I'm going to our alumni meetings or the meaning I let you, Charlotte, I get to hear the MOANS. Man, this hurts that that hurts and I'm like, you know what, hard has a has a study, a survey. You need to take this to get that on the records so we can go ahead and address some of the issues that you may be having. And then what I think I like most of this is that somebody actually cares, somebody actually cares about what what I'm going through. My roommate, Reggie White, had sleep at near in the dying of Sarga doses, I believe that's the correct term of this referred. Yeah, tell you, daddy had scar Doosius, I think it is. No, yes, our good so, yeah, but I remember him having a sea pat machine when he was will we being in the room, he'd be sleeping and he would be sleeping with the machine. I didn't know that that was pervasive among big some of the big guys that I play with, I had no I did that. Some of the big guys will have to see pat machine and when I talk to other guys with team, Oh yeah, man, I used to wear that machine. Yeah, because I didn't help me breathe. I'm like to help you breathe. Yeah, I stopped breathing when I'm when I'm sleeping, I'm like, is that? Is that legal? Can you actually do that? And so I didn't even know. And then having these guys addressed sleep at nea and that that maybe even more of a cause of issues that we don't even know about that we kind of like to say, Ay, Oh, yeah, he's absolutely up, no big deal. Well, they've opened my eyes that there's a whole host of things that really go against the football player that I take for granted because I think a bulletproof tough and I go, oh, no big deal. I no longer say this no big deal. I no longer said I'm just aking this hurt my elbow, on my wrist, Hert, I'll go, oh, that's a big deal. That's selling me something going on and harvest helping illuminate these things that's going on to make me feel a little bit more comfortable about what remedies and what places I need to go to get it fixed. Hello. Well, I think we're that's ingrained. If you're if you're a professional football player, fighting through pain and very is ingrained in what you're taught, because if you don't play, if you're not on the field, you're not getting paid. You Ain't getting paid right and so that said, I mean I can't tell you how many toward all shots I've had, how many injections I've had just to get back out in the field and play when it could says, look, if you don't practice, you're not playing. Well, you know, I got to get paid, I got to take care of my family, right. So that's part of it too. That's that's tough for guys to deal with, especially when they're done. Nobody cares and don't and gust you said, the tour dog. I take a tour to our shots from that person. I've taken the that person innocent, every little anti inflammoratory thing that you you know, just as so I can stay on the field to make sure I have a job, so I can get paid. But what is the cost of that? Now, moving forward, that I never even thought about at all. A good hall of Famer can easily. I played with in Seattle. He had kidney failure because his was ad built. He was taking crazy mouths of ad bill and I have no idea that was messing up his kidneys and neither did he, and and messing up his kidneys to this day here. And that's something he's got inducted all of fame about two or three years ago and it's had a toll on his life. But I didn't know. We don't know all this stuff. But Hey, I'm going to take a tour, do whatever I can to get a field because I got to take care of my family right, which they now that time. And thing, guys, to what you bother have said is these system interact right. And so if you're taking a bunch of tour...

...at all and you get an an ad bill and piles of Ad Bill and you get kidney damage in your hypertension and affects of your brain, in your heart and your kidneys, there are ways of trying to deal with this early on and preventing a lot of these things. And and that's where our heads should be. What can we learn and deliver really soon too people or tell people to do now? Right? So, doc, on that same line, are you guys partnering with anybody else when you get this information and you say look out of I think you guys have somewhereund four thousand people in the study. When you say that, Hey, twenty five percent of our athletes that we've studied are having this issue, are you looking for partners or people to be with to help you say, Hey, we can help fix this. Like you guys found out the issue. We can go now and help fix this multiple different domains. So we're doing some targeted studies to bring to bear, you know, really innovative things. For example, how do you repair an acl better or how do you prevent sleep app man people, etc. Etc. So, yes, you're right, that's number one, but number two is we're also trying to get the message out, message out to former players, but message out to their primary doctors and the people in the medical profession. Hey, wake up, this is a common problem in this group. You met her. Screen them for that. Right exactly. I'm part of a company here in Pittsburgh where we've taken old neuro psych tests and and put them on a mobile application. It's called the Roberto APP and I as sure I don't know I mean document. I have heard of it, but we are in Novacare facilities where people that come in with Tbi, stroking concussion, and you know, we click three thousand data points on your brain performance. It's not a concussion tool, it's more about your brain performance and how that is effects. So everything you guys talked about. I've studied with Dr Nussbaumb for a while now and it's so important that everything starts with our brain. And you may have pain in your knee, but I have, I need a knee replacement. I know my knees killing me. I can't do I can't perform at a high level. So it all starts with the brain. I think you guys are hitting on something very important. And how do we get these guys to find out exactly what's going on? Keep your performance levels high so that they don't get behind and they can go get another job, because if you may have made them a lot of money in the NFL, but do does it mean you're happy? HMM, exactly. You know, and we know too many guys, Eugene, that that happened. That's happened to you. Absolutely. And another thing that you what you mentioned are own up sayings line, is that you really feel like you got an advocate and and and for those who are going to be listening to your podcast and, Oh, maybe listening to be a Scott, I mean we talking Scott, but as you do this, if your podcasts and things that nature, I mean I would invite fighting football players. Of realize this is a safe place, man, this is this is a safe place where someone's absolutely trying to work on your benefit, your behalf. It's a safe and secure place, and just know that moving moving forward, because this is about the old guy they love, the old guy coming out of football who has all these things that could be potentially deadly dangerous. And how do we how do we avoid these land minds? Well, that's what harvards trying to go out and do. And all you need to do is second survey and and and take the survey, and that's all comfidential. In all of the all that other nature of stuff right there. We need to take the servant because it's a safe place, because we got to find out what's going on. What US yeah, and we've worked very hard on information security and a certificate of confidentiality and make sure that everything is as secure as it possibly can be. So your information is your information and we only look at it from a research...

...purpose. Only. People can't just get it. It isn't given out everywhere. So do you d identify all that doc we do when we look at it macro. Absolutely, but what we're focusing on is not shipping it anywhere. We have it under multiple levels of security here within the system and we're not sending it anywhere. Right. That's it. You know, with our APP we do the same thing where we'd identify everything, and we've studied over eight hundred players in the concussion settlement where through their attorneys, because if an attorney wants to put their player into settlement, it costs them a lot of money. So we know that. We found out that a third or probably impaired, a third we don't know in a third probably aren't impaired, and so those attorney who's want to know whether they should go get their full sessment or not, and so that's what we do with our test. We really helped figure that out and it's been very interesting and we've really narrowed it down to where we know what players are really truly hurting and which ones aren't. We're not a diagnostic tool, but we're just a tool that measures and assesses your brain performance and I love for all your players in your study to use it, because the one thing I know I'm talking a lot here, but the one thing I really believe is that we get these things. Let's say you get money in a concussion settlement. Yeah, that's great. You got a hundred, fiftyzero. You have no idea how you're doing day to day now. If you have a tool that can help you with that, I feel that's really, really powerful. Yeah, yeah, and I think understanding metrics of measures at brain help and how we can help people be activists. Right, football players are not passive people. They're activist and if I can tell people do this, this and this at a minimum for your brain help. Right, exercise, lose weight, a void is, as Jean said, bleep, bathnear do a lot of things that we know. That's super helpful and guess, let me just applaud you, man, the fact that you have that APP. You been working what Dr Dos bomb you said, I mean your advocate for the players, and you understand because an out of your career, you get it. You understand what what we fight, I guess, and what we what we go through, and that's just commendable and I commend you based on what you just said, because you're you're bringing so much like to this subject. Well, there's so much that that people can learn from former players for you know, current professionals like doctor Zafonte about how they struggled and went through life and then we can tell those different stories and I feel like that, to me, was way more important than hearing about how, you know, I live in here, I live here in Pittsburgh, and how Big Ben and a B or fighting every day, you know, and I just wanted something more for our communities and our kids and everybody else understand, and so that's why we kind of started this podcast and and trying to write information out to everyone. That's different, okay, and so you know, I think what you guys are doing with the study is wonderful. Eugene, you've been involved with it for how many years now? It's going on three years now. And what is your favorite thing about the study? Well, one, I think it's it's a place where the other advisors, we get a chance to get together and you get to feel like a football player again. I mean there's a community that happens. So, besides all the science and the medical stuff that goes on and all the analysis and all the conversation that we have, besides that I hang out what regular football players, I mean, and be with my buddies in that same Ballmat as if I was in the locker room, once again without having the locker room itself, but be in a locker room. So Harvard has addressed to differentition. There's a medical instue that they're addressing based on the player. There's a...

...social its issue that the embraced. Their embracing on the play of bringing us to together where you get to fill a little bit more camaraderi part of that Association which you've known, the national futballly. So, DOC, one last question for you here before I get into my last segment. But you know, everything you're studying is reactive stuff, right, the problems that come out of playing football and injuries and and medical issues. How can that turn into proactive acceptance for people? Absolutely, since its super important question. How do we prevent things? Right, how do we BE PROACTIVE? So what we're trying to do is a couple of things. We want to identify the problems and their causes and why we, for the things we know something about, have people take aggressive steps to try to mitigate those things early on. Secondly, we want to understand what are the signs that cause those things and how do we mitigate them very early in life. One example of which maybe people with rapid weighting, have lots of problems later in life, especially early lifeweighting. Right. So those are things. And you said, look at this person. You know not you're not naming names that you're saying we know that these people have had these issues. If you could prevent this, then you're going to have a lot better chance to live a lot longer and better life. So I get right. And then identifying the things we know people who have had that experience can do right now. Right, that's excellent. That A is excellent. Okay, one last segment. Guy Said I do. We call it the no huddle. It's at K and I fire a bunch of questions at you guys and have you answer them. They're they're really fun questions, and so I'll just start with you, Eugene. What's your favorite NFL memory? But as a fan, as a fair wow, okay, as a fan, I watch the Seattle seahawks in the in the Super Bowl, but New England patriots, I thought, and I'm a see how Seahawk Fan, but I'm a fan of football. I thought Seattle was getting ready to win the game by just running the ball with lets and I had no idea that the Patriots won a game off the interception by the by the quarterback who comes up one a little flat route to take away a would be victory from the Seattle Seahawks, who I was cotting was going to win super bowl number two. So do you do feel as a defensive player, like are you torn, like because you love Seattle, but hey, a defensive player made a play. That's exactly because I'm a defensive player. First I was like, Oh man, that's a great play, but that's a gets my team. Yeah, it was an incredible, incredible play and once again patriots kind of sneak that thing out. Sure, they had a dead the right Seattle had a dead direct. I was already cotting up the victory. Right, exactly. So, Docu, you worked with a lot of NFL players. Now, what's one of your favorite memories as a fan? Well, you know, Jean Stole One of mine, which was that Malcolm Butler play at the end. Yes, Super Ball, but I guess you know, being a New England and a Patriot its guy, it was that whole schema where I had totally given up in the Super Bowl and they were losing to Atlanta a few years ago and that miraculous come back they had in the fourth quarter just stunned me, and the way they won that game was was was remarkable. We won't tell anybody New England. You were a steelers fan before that. All right, when you live in Pittsburgh, that is pro all right. Another question. All right, doc, who's your favorite comedian? Wow, my favorite comedian? I I guess I would still probably say signed belt Nice. What about you? Eugene des Appel comes to mind immediately. I love Dave Pell show was one of the best ever. That dude is funny man. He is great. He is great. Okay, another question. Do you guys listen to any podcasts? Now I'm Mus start listening to yours, gusts. Yeah, right, huddle up with gusts. Right, I know what guess I mean. I just foiled you, but yeah,...

I don't listen to it totally, but I must not listen to yours. Ghosts. I've had some great guess on coach Dick Guy. I've at leas Steinberg. I've had a lot of really good people. Fitzpatrick was just on. So okay, is the list is growing. What about you, doc? What we're definitely going to start following you and follow listening to that podcast. Sometimes I catch up on the news and listen to podcast from like MPR other stuff. Yeah, no, I agree with that. All right. So, Eugene, you have a new show in Charlotte, right, a morning show. Yes, I'm like, I am like a Michael's free hand when he was with Kelly Rippo. So with me and a woman of Culing Odo Guard. So I do a kind of variety show, midday show, eleven to twelve every day NBC WCSC network. It's called the Charlotte today show, and we have chefs, we have fashion, we have music, we have food, fun the whole night and I get to be a host sin at crazy. That's awesome. So what is the craziest thing has happened to you on live TV? Forgetting, but as the script, as you're reading the script, the telepropter and the telepropter goes out, completely goes out. So they're yeah, yeah, so your brand goes out to right. Yeah, and there's no other words you could read. You got to go ahead and make it up as you go, and I was making up as I go. That's pretty funny. So, Ross, what your who's your favorite person that you follow on twitter. Oh, wow, I don't know if it's a person. I tend to follow some of the news agencies and things like that because to me, twitter's more about getting information, sometimes wrong, sometimes right, pretty quickly. I think there's as much good news as there is bad news on twitter right now. I agree with that. I agree with that. All right, Eugene, okay, you've had a long, sixteen year NFL career. Lots of locker rooms, lots of good times, lots of bad times, ups and downs. Well, what is the funniest moment that you remember during your NFL career? Reggie White was a master of pranks and jokes and then one time we were, I'll plan for the Carolina Panthers here and he said, genie, let's go play a prank, a joke, on Dug Evans. So dug evers was sleeping in the training room, so we're going to play a prank on him. Well, I didn't know. So we're trying to play this preak with him and then dug starts to vomit and what not. Oh my goodness, I was going to put it like an acid tablet in his in his in his mouth right. If I'll try to do right. Well, he starts to bombit and go crazy like alcas Elsa, and I grabbed US Dun dug and he falls out of the off the table and it looks like he's dead. I'm going to dog dug, I kill dog. I count down and hire trading room starts laughing because I didn't know beforehand. They were preaking me. Oh Oh, that's great, that's great. You know, it was unbelievable. It was. It was scary at the time. You'll have to listen to the Fitzpatrick episode when I because I used to ride and I were together and St Louis and I did a prank on his game pants for six weeks straight. Every game I made him one size smaller and they in the whole staff went with me the equipment room. They still said thirty six, but they wouldn't went down one size until they got down to a thirty and we told him he kept getting fatter and fatter and because I can't get my pants on. It was one of the best ones I've ever done. That's too, very funny us. Look as you didn't have to play in the Games. All Right, all right, doc, okay, what's really preci what's last one for you, doc. What's the most exciting thing you've done this year outside of work? Outside of work, wow, I got to go to let me think about that, because I don't get that much good excitement. Oh, I got to go to a couple of my cause sons college height hockey games.

That's for me. That's a lot of fun and a lot of focus and I get to forget about a little bit of this and a lot of focus on what he's doing when he's playing and and that's a great opportunities. He where's he go to school? He plays up at Bodin College and mean, yeah, that's like he can go out in the winter and then skate right now lakes. Yeah, well, to them, I think ten is fine. Yeah, exactly, exactly. Well, thank you, guys, for coming on. Appreciate you being on the show. Thanks really very sad. Thank you so much for her and TA. Guys, Hey, we want to thank you for joining us today on howd up with guests, where we talked to a wide range of guests about how sports shaped to life. As always, I'm joined by my great friend and Co host Dave Hagar, and we want you to be able to follow us on all of our social media at huddle up with gusts and we really appreciate you and thank you for your time and listening to our podcast.

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