Cleveland Browns veteran offensive lineman Joe Thomas says his 11 years in the NFL have already taken a toll on his body.
In an interview on “In Depth with Graham Bensinger,” Thomas said he’s already experiencing memory loss and he’s sure “the damage has already been done” to his brain.
However, Thomas also has an unusual perspective on it. Thomas told Bensinger that the NFL, like all other jobs, comes with risks and that he needs to accept them in order to continue supporting his family.
“There’s definitely a concern, but the way I look at it is, just about every profession in our society, there’s some lasting effects,” Thomas said. “It’s just the way our society is set up. People have to work. So, if I was a stone mason or I was a painter or if I was building bridges or whatever, there’s gonna be some wear and tear on your body and your brain and that’s just the way it is.
“To be able to live the lifestyle and provide for my family that football has been able to do, to me, it’s a trade-off I’m willing to accept.”
When Bensinger argued some jobs have worse effects than others, Thomas replied that Bensinger’s job, which involves sitting, has likely affected his hip flexors and back. Thomas also said his memory loss will affect his wife more than him.
“She’s the one that’s going to have to deal with it,” Thomas laughed. “Cause I’m gonna be, ‘Who are you? Where did I get there?'”
Thomas continued, saying he hopes being “good-natured” about it will help him going forward.
“I think from my perspective, just being good-natured about it hopefully will help. I definitely expect memory loss. I’m already seeing memory loss, and maybe that’s just because of my old age or maybe it’s football, it’s hard to tell … It’s hard to tell if it’s because of football or if it’s just because of you’re 32 and not 21 anymore, and you’ve got a lot of stuff going on in your life.”
Thomas said his memory loss is mostly with “short-term” things, like forgetting what he went to the grocery store for.
“I think if you really let it bug you, it can make you depressed and feel sad, like ‘I don’t have the memory that I used to have.’ But I try to be relatively good-natured about it.”
Thomas said he is concerned about the diseases that have been linked to brain injuries, naming Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease, and things like mood swings and depression that have led to suicide. However, he said he’s already gone too far to worry about it too much.
“From my perspective, I can’t do anything about it. This was the profession that I have already chosen and most of the damage has already been done already.”
Thomas said he hopes that in ten years, medicine will have advanced and be able to help players more than some of the former players who have struggled with the aftermath of their injuries.
Certainly, Thomas’ opinions differ from the numerous players who have retired early in hopes of protecting their health.
Likewise, one of the biggest problems with the NFL’s concussion protocol is having players admit that they have gotten hurt or are experiencing concussion-like symptoms. Thomas’ message seemingly doesn’t help change the culture of admitting when a player has an injury and willingly sitting out.
Thomas’ agent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Watch Thomas’ comments below: