Thursday, March 24, 2016

R.I.P., Kevin Turner

I love the National Football League. Despite the myriad issues the NFL has endured recently (i.e. huge concussion lawsuit, players charged with domestic violence, etc.), it's still a multi-billionaire enterprise.

With that said, the more stories of former players dying young could very well put a dent in the league's appeal. Sadly yet another NFL alum is gone too soon.

Former NFL fullback Kevin Turner, who played eight seasons for the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, died Thursday after a six-year battle with ALS. He was 46.

Turner was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- in 2010. According to his foundation, Turner was surrounded by his family and friends.

"Myra and I lost a great son today. He will be missed so much," his father, Raymond Turner, posted on Facebook. "Thanks to everyone so very much for your support and prayers during this journey. He was ready to go to Heaven, excited he said, Love y'all and God Bless."

I became familiar with Turner's struggle a couple of years ago after viewing the film American Man, which detailed his battle with A.L.S. and how he sought to bring awareness to a disease that was certain to take his life. If you haven't seen the film (set around 2010), it's worth checking out.

Perhaps one of the more poignant moments of the film was when Turner visited former NFL running back Steve Smith. Having played 9 seasons in the NFL (1987-1995) for both the Raiders and Seahawks, Smith was diagnosed with A.L.S. in 2002 and had been using a feeding tube since 2006. Despite Smith being bedridden and completely immobile, Turner paid him a visit knowing full well he would likely be in that same physical state within a couple of years. Nevertheless, Turner put his own fears and discomfort aside and prayed over Smith.

Turner was the leading plaintiff in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL. The initial judgement last year was for the NFL to pay $900 million to players who have been diagnosed with neurological disorders. The decision is still in the appeal process, which means Turner did not live to benefit financially.

Given the sad tales of the likes of Turner, Smith, Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, just to name a few, today's active NFL players are weighing the risk of playing more than a few seasons. There have even been notable players over the past couple of years who have decided to retire in the prime of their careers rather than expose themselves to the potential of additional brain trauma. That's the proverbial genie that may never get put back into the bottle.


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