’88 Plan’ aids retired NFL players

By Jason Radka
March 22, 2007

John Mackey is a former Hall of Fame National Football League athlete. He stomped the gridiron for the Baltimore Colts during the late 1960s and early 1970s. During that time period, padding for protection was minimal to the body. Even though Mackey wore full body protection at the tight-end position, it would be determined years later in his life that his head protection was insufficient.

Mackey is one of about 20 retired NFL athletes that is suffering from dementia. Dementia is a brain disease brought on to these athletes by consistent blows to the head and reoccurring concussions. Mackey, now 65, has left his family with mental and financial burdens. The mental burden proves to be intense but manageable, but the question marks have been put on the financial side.

The NFL and the National Football League Players Association have joined hands to create the a program to aid those families affected by dementia during their time in the NFL. The “88 Plan” was the name given to the program, named after Mackey’s number in the NFL.

According to the New York Times, families of the affected will be offered up to $88,000 a year if the player receives care from a facility away from the home, and up to $50,000 a year to pay for in-home care.

Sophomore exercise science and health promotion major Kelly Cotton thinks that NFL has only scratched the surface on coping with dementia stricken athletes.

“The athletes get paid a lot of money for the beatings that they take, but I worry about them after their careers are over,” Cotton said.

“The 88 Plan is a good start but for those individuals who endure severe injuries mentally and physically must be compensated by the NFL.”

Former Philadelphia Eagles player Andre Watters committed suicide in the Fall of 2006 at the age of 44. Watters took several hits to the head during his career in Philadelphia. According to the New York Times, Watters had been suffering from dementia, and had the brain tissue of an 80-year-old with Alzheimer’s when analyzed.

Although Watters’ condition was of the most serious type of dementia, Watters would have had to go through the application process of 88 Plan to receive care. Trouble is, there was no plan in the Fall.

According to the New York Times, the NFL is a $6 billion-a-year organization. Other Cabrini students feel as though the NFL is doing enough to compensate former players affected by dementia.

“I think $80,000 and $50,000 is a lot of money to cover their problems,” Meghan O’Leary, a junior education major, said. “As long as it covers more than half, then I think it is enough money.”

Mackey’s brain has almost deteriorated. Standing at 6-foot-3, dementia knows no limitations to who it affects. Although the NFL is offering money to the families, they are not offering any guidance as to where to turn with their funds. The NFL also does not educate active players in the league about the effects of a long-standing disease in the NFL.

O’Leary said, “They should have information counseling sessions that show this plan before the players show signs. Also, they should show the dangers after playing mentally and physically.”

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Jason Radka

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