Bo Jackson would not have played American football if he knew risks
Dual-sport star says that he would never let his kids play the game
Bo Jackson in action for the Los Angeles Raiders during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs on October 1989. Photograph: Ken Levine/Getty Images
Bo Jackson has revealed that his legendary dual-sport career might never have got off the ground if he’d known 30 years ago about American football’s risk of concussion.
Jackson, one of America’s greatest ever athletes and the only man to be named an all-star in football and baseball, told USA Today that he was ignorant of football’s safety risks when he was a player, and would have concentrated on baseball if he had known better.
The former Los Angeles Raiders running back said: “If I knew back then what I know now, I would have never played football. Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.
“The game has gotten so violent, so rough. We’re so much more educated on this CTE stuff, there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today.”
The NFL estimates that 6,000 former players, or nearly three in 10, could develop Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia caused by head trauma. Last year, the league paid $1 billion to settle thousands of concussion lawsuits filed by former players who have been diagnosed with brain injuries linked to repeated concussions. NFL greats Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Ken Stabler were among an increasing number of players to have been diagnosed with CTE after their deaths.
Jackson, now 54, said his experience in the NFL meant football was off-limits to his children. “Even though I love the sport, I’d smack them in the mouth if they said they wanted to play football,” Jackson said. “I’d tell them: ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football’.”
Jackson won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1985 and was drafted by the Raiders in 1987 after rejecting an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He trampled over Brian Bosworth in a memorable Raiders-Seattle Seahawks game in his rookie year and went to the Pro Bowl in 1990, but was forced out of football in 1991 after suffering a debilitating hip injury.
He played eight seasons in Major League Baseball with the Royals, White Sox and Angels and retired from professional sport in 1994.