Brett Favre would rather his grandsons not play football, believes he may have short-term memory loss, fears what might happen to him as he ages and believes he sustained "hundreds, maybe thousands" of concussions in his 20-year NFL career.
The NFL record-holder for most consecutive starts (297) even suggested he might have ended his ironman streak had he thought more seriously about concussions when he played.
Here’s an edited transcript of that interview:
Question: How many concussions did you have?
Favre: “That I know of, three or four maybe. But as we’re learning about concussions, there’s a term that is often used in football -- and maybe in other sports -- that I got 'dinged.' As Dr. [Bennet] Omalu, who was portrayed by Will Smith in the movie 'Concussion' has said, 'Dinged is a concussion.' When you have ringing of the ears, seeing stars, that’s a concussion. And if that is a concussion, I’ve had hundreds, maybe thousands, throughout my career, which is frightening.”
Q: You played hurt, but did you realize how dangerous it was?
Favre: “Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I played 20 years. Year 18, 19, 20 is when the NFL implemented the concussion protocol testing. Having played 17 years up to that point, my baseline test, which they did maybe in Year 18, which gives you where you are at this point in your career, there had been enormous amount of injuries that had taken place in those 17, 18 years. My test was skewed somewhat. So really, at that point in my career, and at that point in the NFL’s early stages, there was nothing prior to that. You saw older players, retired players, and they would walk with a limp. [You thought], ‘That’s what I’m going to look like someday, that’s the price that you pay.’ Now, I think the focus is on your mental health. You’re going to have knee, hip, shoulder type of issues -- that’s just part of it. But head injuries and concussions were never considered a problem for long term until now.”
Q: What symptoms have you suffered?
Favre: “Well, I consider myself somewhat fortunate up to this point, because having played 20 years, and I think 19 and two games were nonstop without ever missing. With that being said, you’d think there would be a lot more damage not only to the brain but to the body. But I feel as though I’m lucky to this point. One of the things that helped me throughout my career is -- I can’t say that I was the best player, but I remembered defenses and names and plays. In fact, I could go back and call the high school plays I ran, and to a certain degree, I can still do that. But I find that more short-term memory -- someone I met six months ago -- in other words, it has gotten a lot worse in regards to short-term, simple words that normally would come out easy in a conversion, I’ll stammer. And look, I’m 48 years old. Having played 20 years, could it just be as we all like to say as we get a little bit older, I forgot my keys and they were in my hand? Or where are my glasses, and they’re on your head? I wonder if that’s what it is or do I have early stages of CTE. I don’t know.”
Q: You don’t want your grandsons playing football. Do you wish you hadn’t played?
Favre: “No, I don’t wish I wouldn’t have [played]. My football career has meant a great deal to me and has provided a lot of things and a lot of joy for not only me but for my family. Now, my family doesn’t have to face the physical problems that could arise or mental problems. But they are directly associated with me in that regard. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse. I grew up playing football. My dad was my coach. He was tough on me. He was a hard-nosed, in-your-face type of guy. He didn’t know what concussions were about. We knew basically what a concussion was, but the thought process back then in those days was you would never come out of a game or a practice because you had a little head ding. You would be considered -- for lack of a better term -- a sissy. My point in all this is, 30 years ago, there wasn’t a problem in anyone’s mind from playing football. It was a matter of just being tough, and the ones who stuck it out made the most of it. But now what we know is it has nothing to do with toughness, and that’s a lot scarier. I look at my career as being something wonderful ... but had I known in Year 5, I probably would’ve looked at my future a little closer as my career unfolded.”