Former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley appeared on Highly Questionable today to push for more research into the usage of marijuana to treat football injuries, instead of pharmaceuticals. Since he retired in 2007, Turley has been quite outspoken about the damaging health effects of football. He was interviewed at length for a San Diego Union-Tribune feature in 2013, and argued with Colin Cowherd about a lawsuit former NFLers had filed alleging negligence on the behalf of team doctors, among other media appearances.
In the interview, Turley—who says he suffered two documented concussions and over 100 undocumented ones—details how messed up his brain is, and how various drugs he has taken messed it up even further.
Here’s one of the more harrowing excerpts, though you should really watch the whole thing:
Were those thoughts a direct side effect of the medicine you were taking, or an effect of the pain not going away?
No, 100% the side effect of those medications. Those things then, over years of use, well from initially being prescribed wellbutrin the first time, maybe a week into taking that, I wanted to jump out of a third story window of my house and my wife had to stop me one night. So I stopped taking that. Then went to depakote, found great relief in depakote, but the longterm use of that surfaced all these other problems. And depression, anxiety, light sensitivity got worse, and suicidal and homicidal tendencies became a part of my daily living, in that I couldn’t be around a knife in my kitchen without having an urge to stab someone, including my wife and kids. That was highly disturbing to me.
I remember vividly being at the induction, my Hall of Fame induction at San Diego State University. I was there by myself, my wife had to stay back with the kids in Tennessee. I found myself out on the balcony, to step out and get some air, and, you know, actually try to medicate with some cannabis, and I found as soon as I got out the door I wanted to jump off of the building. And iff it weren’t for cannabis I don’t think I would have made it back to my hotel room.
Perhaps the most sobering bit of the interview comes near the end, when Turley details how much he loved football and wanted to continue playing, and adds that if the game is going to stick around for his son to be able to play, it needs to consider alternative ways of treating players (like with medical marijuana).
Think about that for a second, though. Here is a man who attributes nearly-deadly suicidal thoughts to the drugs he had to take because of a lifetime spent playing football, who believes that he suffered over 100 concussions playing football, and he’s still talking about letting his son play the sport.
Medical marijuana may well be extremely beneficial in treating all sorts of maladies associated with football, but it cannot prevent them. It might treat brain injuries more effectively than the drugs Turley was on, but that still means somebody suffered a brain injury. Better drugs can help make football safer, but they cannot change the violent reality of the game.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK.