The last time Alex Smith played in a professional football game was on November 18th, 2018. In the 3rd quarter of that game, he was sacked by multiple Houston Texans players which included star defensive end J.J. Watt. That sack ended up crushing his right leg which resulted in a severely broken leg. Because of this, Smith had to undergo 17 surgeries in nine months. Doctors thought they might have to amputate his leg and at one point, as his life was in danger of being taken due to the severity of the injury. Although they were able to save his leg, he was relegated to a wheelchair for three months and an external fixator for eight months.
Just today, for the first time since his gruesome injury, Alex Smith was cleared for participation in football activities in training camp for the 2020 NFL season. While this is a big accomplishment for him, he’s making a huge mistake in returning to play football. Football is one of the most dangerous sports in the world, if not the most dangerous.
From play to play, players are running and making body to body contact at full speed. Because of this, numerous injuries occur in the NFL every single season, varying from muscle tears, to broken bones and concussions. While players can recover from many of these injuries, the long term consequences from these injuries can lead to a deteriorating body for years to come. CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is just one issue that NFL players can develop while playing the sport. While the condition itself is still being studied, there is no doubt that in many cases that have been studied, the players quality of life and life space are dramatically reduced.
Quarterbacks specifically have to potentially deal with concussions on a regular basis, as they are frequently on the receiving end of head to head contact from defensive players as well as their own teammates. The chances for contact increases greatly when quarterbacks leave the pocket and run with the ball, as they then become a runner. Is it really worth it for Alex Smith to potentially suffer from additional injuries after the injury he suffered in 2018?
Zach Miller, a former tight end for the Chicago Bears, suffered a similar leg injury compared to the one that Alex Smith suffered. In October 2017 while attempting to make a catch in the end zone, Miller fell awkwardly on his left knee. While Miller suffered a dislocated knee, he also tore his popliteal artery an injury which could have left him with a leg amputation. Doctors were able to avoid for him having to go through amputation, but he was in the hospital for three weeks.
While he wanted to return to the football field, he made the smart decision to hang up his cleats for good. “…I would love nothing more than to step onto Soldier Field one last time, but physically I can not give the game and our fans what they deserve…”. Despite Smith being cleared for football activities, there is a huge difference between being cleared for activities and being physically able to play in a game. In football practice, players probably don’t go as hard as they would in a game in order to prevent an injury from occurring. Players are also a lot less likely to suffer serious injuries in practice, as contact with teammates is limited.
In a game, players are at full speed and give it their all. While the whole football world is sympathetic towards Smith due to the injury he suffered, opposing defenses aren’t going to slow down or take it easy if Smith is on the field. If players do, that’s what gets them benched or even released and no defensive player will do that especially since what they do is their livelihood and how they feed their families.
The psychological aspects of the game could be something that impacts Smith’s return to the game as well. How will he react when he sees huge, strong defensive players charging at him when he needs to protect his leg from being broken again? How will his body and legs react when he needs to scramble to avoid the charging defenders? Are his legs really at full strength? These are the thoughts that could potentially go through his mind when and if he does return to competition.
By putting himself back on the field, he’s putting himself at risk, a much bigger risk than a typical football player puts himself in by playing the game. In his career, Smith has earned $161.5 million, a big house, a family, and a career as a professional athlete. In short, Smith and his family are set for life, so why risk his future as a husband and a parent to return to such a brutal sport?
What Smith should have done was follow in the same footsteps as Zach Miller and call it quits due to how serious of an injury he suffered. By going back out on the field, he’s making a huge mistake.
Featured image credit: USA Today
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