The NFL and NFLPA had better make sure that Tom McHale didn't die in vain.

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The NFL and NFLPA had better make sure that Tom McHale didn’t die in vain.

By Bill Smith

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFL Football,NFLPA,Upshaw,McHale,Ditka,Bears,Eales,Buccaneers,Dolphins,CTE,chronic traumatic encephalopathy

You may not recognize the name Tom McHale. He played as an offensive lineman in the NFL for 9 seasons with Tampa, Philadelphia, and Miami from 1987-1995 starting 23 of the 87 games in which he played. He died last May at the age of 45 from an accidental overdose of oxycodone and cocaine according to police. Tom was one of a large number of NFL players that suffered multiple concussions during his career. He was one of six players examined by researchers as part of the Sports Legacy Institute for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — and the sixth whose diagnosis was confirmed by a postmortem study of his brain.

McHale had his own demons including three stints in drug rehabilitation. His wife told the New York Times that he was in constant pain and was taking pain killers all the time. But his death along with the deaths of the other 5 players all have been in vain unless the NFL and the NFLPA do something about the problem. The larger issue is that all six former NFL players that have been studied had a history of concussions and all 6 suffered from CTE.

As soon as the NFLPA elects the replacement for Gene Upshaw, the league and the players are going to begin negotiating a new deal. They will be discussing a rookie salary cap, the hundredths of a percent of revenues that the owners want back and guaranteed contracts. While they are discussing these issues, they had better discuss the long term health benefits for the retired players.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka has been a leader in fighting for more money and an easier path to get retired players the health benefits they need and deserve. Every NFL fan owes him and the others that are fighting for fairness a vote of thanks.

CTE is huge problem with more and more concussions happening every year. As players get bigger, faster and stronger, their collisions become ever more violent. Equipment is much better than it used to be but technology can not possibly keep up with the development of the game and increased strength of the players.

It is great that the league is looking into the problem, but it has to do more than pay lip service to the problem. The league and the NFLPA should co-fund a major effort to find out how to help players that suffer from CTE. The NFLPA and the NFL owe the retired players every consideration. Guaranteed contracts would rip the heart out of the quality of play. But CTE kills. It has killed Tom McHale, and unless they find a way to detect it and find a cure or at least a way to help players live with the problem, CTE could kill the NFL as well.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

The NFL and NFLPA had better make sure that Tom McHale didn't die in vain. by
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3 thoughts on “The NFL and NFLPA had better make sure that Tom McHale didn't die in vain.”

  1. Very interesting article as I didn’t realize there was a major problem. Most of the retired players that you see either as analysts or going into the Hall of Fame seem to be in decent shape for men their age.

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  2. They should study quarterbacks for sure as they seem to be most prone to having concussions after being tackled on the field.

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  3. It is so sad that the players are suffering from something like that. I was wondering if you could tells us alittle more about how chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can affect the players.

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