Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt says he’s not shocked by the recent clamour around head trauma – because he knew the risks going into the NFL.
Watt said he takes all the precautions he can when it comes to safety, but admitted: “I don’t think any of us got into this game thinking we were not going to get hit on our heads.”
The conversation about head trauma has intensified in recent weeks, thanks in part to the film Concussion, which details how many former players suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head. Fresh research into the deaths of Giants safety Tyler Sash and Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler found both players had CTE when they died.
Watt, a dominant defensive player who holds the Texans franchise records for sacks and forced fumbles, said he expects to get hit when he goes out on the field. “I know for a fact that every time I go out to practice I am going to hit my head. It’s just like a fire-fighter knows he may have to go into a fire at some point, or a soldier knows he may get shot at some point.”
He said: “While we are all learning a lot about and do understand there are serious implications that come with it, I don’t think any of us got into this game thinking we were not going to get hit on our heads.”
He added: “You do everything you can to make sure that you are safe and that you are sound, but I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t know that was a possibility.”
Boston University, a leader in researching CTE, has found the disease in 90 of 94 former NFL players it has examined. About 6,000 of 20,000 retired players are expected to eventually suffer from Alzheimer’s or moderate dementia.
The list of NFL greats who have been found to suffer from the CTE include Junior Seau, Frank Gifford and Mike Webster.