Kelly: Pouncey’s ailing hip another example of the lasting impact of playing in the NFL | Commentary

Mike Pouncey has a reputation as a relentless warrior on the football field, but in a few years the Miami Dolphins center could be struggling off of it.

That’s obviously the worst case scenario of what can be the lasting effects of playing professional football with a hip issue, which limits Pouncey’s practice participation on a weekly basis.

After the Dolphins’ 20-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, Pouncey revealed that doctors anticipate he’ll need a hip replacement procedure in the next five to 10 years.

“We'll see. I can't predict the future. I'm listening to what a doctor tells me,” said Pouncey, whose performance has been solid, but not spectacular so far this season. “I feel right now, I don't need one. But we'll see.”

The Dolphins are so concerned about Pouncey’s hip that he practices every other day, and this might be the case for the rest of the former Pro Bowler’s career.

But as long as he’s on the field for Sunday’s games most Dolphins fans won’t care.

“I don't have a normal hip,” Pouncey said, explaining his hip issues, which have limited him to 17 games since 2013, and has been surgically repaired at least three times.

Pouncey said he feels better than he has in years, but he acknowledges his hip “always feels tight.”

The sad thing is that Pouncey isn’t unique. In fact, he’s pretty common.

Pouncey’s hip issues are an example of the kind of harm an NFL career could cause players down the line.

One of my favorite questions to ask when I run into a former player I covered is “what hurts these days?”

The response will usually feature a laundry list of aches and pains, and often includes a few post-career surgeries that came years after the pads and helmet came off.

Some can even tell you the exact game, and maybe the play they suffered the injury, as if it’s a war wound and their surgical scar is a purple heart.

While that conversation is usually entertaining, it is also heartbreaking, and a reflection of the toll NFL players place their bodies under for the sport they love, and the game that pays many of them — but not all — handsomely.

However, that doesn’t mean the price these players pay — which we’ve recently learned also includes brain trauma like chronic traumatic encephalopathy — is worth it.

Former NFL and University of Miami standout receiver Santana Moss recently had a revealing interview with The Undefeated where he expressed his fears and concerns about the lasting impact of the many concussions he suffered and played through during his college and NFL career.

Moss, who retired in 2014 after an accomplished 14-year career, admitted that he’s experiencing memory loss on a regular basis.

“I forget everything,” Moss told The Undefeated, pointing out that he use to play through head injuries with pride.

“You can call us stupid or crazy as players, but that’s what we know, that’s all we know. So now, dealing with it, and knowing what concussions are, it’s scary,” Moss said. “I’m happy they put the protocols they put in place because a lot of us have played for years dealing with this thing and not knowing what it was.”

The New York Times reported in July that Boston University researchers found CTE in the brains of 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players.

In fairness to the league, the study was done on deceased players who were battling with CTE-related issues.

CTE, a disease that is believed to occur when a person suffers multiple hits to the head — including those that don’t cause a concussion or produce concussion symptoms — triggers a degenerative process that can cause abnormal behavior, mood swings, and impaired thinking years or even decades later. The condition only can be diagnosed after death by examining brain tissue.

The NFL has put rule changes in place to make the game safer, and also agreed to settle a lawsuit first filed in 2011, paying more than 20,000 former NFL players covered in the suit somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion.

But that settlement doesn’t address the fact the game we know and love isn’t safe, and never will be.

Everyone, including Pouncey, has to make their own personal choice regarding football. But fans might want to think about lasting impact of the violent game we love.

On Twitter @omarkelly

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