Oakland Raiders fans no doubt have fond memories of quarterback Jim Plunkett, who led the team to two Super Bowl titles in the 1980s. Unfortunately, 15 years of football have taken a massive toll on Plunkett’s body, which he detailed in a revealing interview with the San Jose Mercury News.
“My life sucks,” said Plunkett. “It’s no fun being in this body right now. Everything hurts.”
Now 69 years old, Plunkett has had a total of 18 surgeries over the years, getting artificial knees and a shoulder. He also dealt with an episode of Bell’s Palsy last year and is on a daily cocktail of pain medication, telling the Mercury News, “I’ve got to take them every day to quote-unquote survive.”
During his playing days, Plunkett took an astounding amount of punishment. He was sacked 380 times, tied for 15th most all-time among quarterbacks, and that stat doesn’t track all the other times Plunkett got violently driven to the turf. He had at least 10 concussions dating back to high school, and believes he suffered many more.
After Plunkett’s retirement, the NFL banned defenders from hitting the quarterback after he threw the ball (anything more than two steps falls under this rule), which may have been a contributing factor to the amount of brutal hits Plunkett and his peers took. However, that new rule can’t reverse the damage done to Plunkett.
A recent study examined the donated brains of 111 former NFL players and found that 110 had CTE, which is an obvious worry among both current and former players. Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis expressed his own concerns, telling The Denver Post that “we’re concerned because we don’t know what the future holds.” While there is still much to be learned about the disease, its impact on the game has clear ramifications on past, present, and future players.
For now, Plunkett is focused on educating young players about the risks of head trauma. He recently participated in a golf charity event with other former NFL players to raise money for brain trauma research. Plunkett has also taken to golf in recent years because “nobody hits you,” which is a small relief after everything he’s been through.
The whole interview can be read here.