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Hard-Headed: Former Packers QB Brett Favre Sheds Chilling Light on His Concussion History

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Hard-Headed: Former Packers QB Brett Favre Sheds Chilling Light on His Concussion History

-- In order to receive a concussion, some form of trauma must be administered to the skull to knock the brain about within and briefly off of its state of leverage, causing bruising, possible nerve damage and often the damaging of brain cells.

According to Brett Favre, that exact gruesome instance may have occurred over a thousand times throughout his 20-year NFL career.

The former Green Bay Packers quarterback and NFL Hall of Fame member was on NBC's "Megyn Kelly Today" last week discussing the topic in part due to his open advocacy for concussion research.

"As we're learning about concussions, there's a term we use in football and maybe other sports, that I got 'dinged,'" Favre told Kelly. "When you have ringing of the ears, seeing stars, that is a concussion."

Favre has always been renowned as one league's Iron Men over the last two decades en route to playing 302 career regular season games, including 24 in the postseason. He started 297 consecutive games overall despite the multitude of injuries and hardship he's endured in his career.

Favre's commitment to the game and preserving through any form of affliction spanned from as far back as his days quarterbacking the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. After a near-fatal car accident in 1990 just before Favre's senior collegiate season, he had 30 inches -- or 76 centimeters -- of small intestines removed from his stomach and was back on the field six weeks later.

His gutsy, reckless style of play that dubbed him as one of the NFL's "toughest" players ever may haunt him as he ages.

"You don't remember what you're doing, can't remember where your car keys are, how to get home," the 48-year-old Favre said.

"Tomorrow I may be in great health, but I don't know who I am or where I'm going. So it can happen overnight, and I know it's not as dramatic as that, but that's the scary thing. And so no matter what I do to try and take care of myself physically, that is a part of my future that I really can't control, and that is very scary."

Favre's fear of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) meshes with an ongoing player safety issue that the NFL has invested so much of its time and dollars into trying to strengthen. Still, concussions continue to be a common happening and one of the leading causes of so much controversy.

It's looking at grim numbers such as the ones in a study conducted by in September of 2015 that found 87 of 91 former NFL players, now deceased, tested positive for CTE. That's roughly 96 percent of qualifying ex-players that dealt with the brain disease in life after football.

Favre told Kelly that he only suffered "three or four" reported concussions -- and that's the terrifying part. The three or four documented concussions pale in comparison to the hundreds, even thousands Favre believes he suffered during his career.

"My football career has meant a great deal to me and has provided a lot of things, a lot of joy not only for me, but for my family. Now, my family doesn't have to face the physical problems that could potentially arise, or the mental problems that could, but they are directly associated with me in that regard.

"It's kind of a blessing and a curse."

In the years following Favre's retirement in 2010, there's been a sense of terrifying consistency with the league's status quo on concussions.

In 2011, there were 171 reported concussions during the regular season.

173 in 2012.

148 in 2013.

115 in 2014.

182 in 2015.

Favre may have retired with a plethora of NFL records broken at his own accord, including the most touchdown passes ever thrown and most passing yards in a career, but what was the price?

It's something to ponder now, but when he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the 33rd overall pick in 1991, it wasn't even something that was in the back of his -- or anyone else's -- mind. Not with his unbridled passion for the game and the upside his impending NFL career offered. He held 17 school records coming out of Southern Mississippi; nobody was going to question his well-being 27 years from then.

Yet, here we are.

"My point in this is 30 years ago, there wasn't a problem in anyone's mind from playing football. It was just a matter of being tough, and the ones who stuck it out and made the most of it. Now, what we know, is it has nothing to do with toughness and that's a lot scarier. So I look at my career as something wonderful. I didn't know; had I known in year five, I would have looked at my future a bit closer as my career unfolded."

Favre hinted at retirement a few times near the end of his career before finally transitioning into his post-football life in the 2008 offseason. ... And then, he was quarterbacking the New York Jets by the summer that same year. He'd finish the last two years of his career with the rival Minnesota Vikings before his aforementioned retirement in 2010.

While to many fans, he committed treason by donning purple and gold in 2009, it's likely Favre wouldn't urge a future son -- or grandson -- who played football not to commit "moral injustice" by suiting up for a rival team. Instead, his advice may very well be of much more significance.

"If I had a son myself. ... I would really, really strongly discourage him from playing [football].

"The brain and just the skull itself, for 8-to-15-year-olds, and maybe even older, is not developed enough and they should not be playing tackle football. We should protect them, especially when there is no treatment solution out there."


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (34) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

The question of concussions in football is a scary one. I don't care how "gladiator-like" these players are, CTE/Alzheimers/PTSD is nothing to mess around with for any amount of money, IMO. You can't take the money with you when you're gone.

And I'll never question Favre's toughness, nor his love for the game. And I don't doubt that he had dozens of concussions of varying degrees throughout his playing career.

But I also know that Favre is not the best spokesman for this cause. He's a known drama-queen, he complained for years in GB, leading to the "summer of Favre" and the 09 Vikings season.

Someone like Wes Welker or Peyton Manning would be much better for the players reputations that Favre on this issue.

4thand1's picture

I disagree about Favre not being the best "spokesman" for the job. He is one of the NFL's poster children, Ironman the NFL touted for years. His refusal to come out of game at any cost because he was afraid of losing his starting job. I don't think he would have come close to sitting out if he knew what he knows today. He loved the attention too much and his ego wouldn't have let him.

WKUPackFan's picture

I also disagree regarding Favre not being a good spokesperson. Any Favre previous "divaness" notwithstanding, his public statements over the past few years have been quite reasonable, to the point of being thoughtful.

Favre stating that, if he had a son, he would encourage him not to play should be enough standing it's own to signal the seriousness of this issue.

Finwiz's picture

Divaness only exists as a word in the urban dictionary.

The game is so different from 25 years ago when he started, his opinions are hardly relevant, nor are they sincere. He would have played through anything for love of the game.

GBPDAN1's picture

I think Favre is a good candidate for this cause. For the most part, he's well liked and respected. He played over 300 consecutive games (including playoffs) and is considered the ultimate iron man for the game.

The guy has had many concussions. He went to the sidelines throwing up blood during a Pittsburgh game and then proceeded to throw a touchdown blacked out.... He didn't remember the play.

And as far as giving advice on whether or not to let you kids play tackle football, who better than Favre? He's experiencing the effects of all those concussions, he's understandably worried about his future and a lot of this had to do with his dad calling him out to be a tough guy. I love Favre and he's considered one of my favorite Packers. He helped pull us out of pro football purgatory. I pray that he doesn't look like Muhammad Ali down the road or end up like Jr Seau fighting major depression.

Let's hope for the best for Favre and all NFL players that have suffered brain trauma injuries

Since '61's picture

GBPDan - Amen to your last sentence. I also agree that Favre is a good spokesperson for this issue. In addition to his streak, he is a HOFer, a 3 time league MVP and Super bowl winner. He played 20 seasons in the league.

I can only speculate but I have believed for a long time that many of Favre's poor decisions and questionable actions towards the end of his career may have been caused by the onset of CTE. There is continually mounting evidence that suffering concussions can cause a change in personality, whether it is towards violence, depression, suicidal, memory loss, it varies from person to person.

Favre is justified in his concerns and there are probably many players currently active in the league who are potentially on the same path with Favre towards CTE. It may require a player of Favre's fame to finally create a sense of urgency for this issue.

I know that I'm glad that my own son never decided to play tackle football at any level because I didn't know enough at the time to have stopped him but I would stop him today. It's not worth it.

I hope Favre doesn't have significant impact from his playing days but if he does his name will bring a lot of attention to the NFL ignoring the problem for the last 3 decades at least. Thanks, Since '61

TheVOR's picture

So just a comment here. We've all had our bell rung. Heck, I've stood up, seen stars and been dizzy.

I'm not sure that equates to the damage of an actual concussion, or would be medically considered a concussion.

I think what they have determined is accumulative repetitions of the brain being popped or jarred effects a possible contributer in CTE, but its not the same as a concussion. A concussion is a pretty dramatic thing, I've had them, my athlete daughters have had them.

Only Brett himself can say what he thinks happened over the span of his career. I know for a fact he took some huge shots, so for me to say what the accumulative contribution that could have to a longer term CTE outcome is impossible to say, BUT, that said, Brett Claiming to have been concussed perhaps thousands of times, might be a fuzz irresponsible.

holmesmd's picture

I’m a physician. Brain trauma is brain trauma and is cumulative. Yes there are degrees but any symptomatic event is cumulative, regardless of degree.

Royalty Free GM's picture

I would like to see a global (american) football league played by robots ASAP.

Robot players’ AI level and mechanical skills would skyrocket rapidly with the nfl type of money. And that is scary and fascinating at the same time.

Nobody wouldn’t get CTE unless you’re a typical Bills fan at a tailgate party.

worztik's picture


Royalty Free GM's picture

Humanlike robot players would get faster and faster, fans would see harder, smashing hits. Players would leap higher and higher. Everyday we would see something new.

It would be interesting to see which way the game would evolve. Would robot teams be better at running or passing game at first? Better at offensively or defensively?

“With the 32nd pick... in the 2020 XYZFL draft... the Green Bay Packers select...
Torque [Construction Noise] Lewith v2.1... MIT”

worztik's picture


GBPDAN1's picture

R. F. GM....You must be a Millennial

holmesmd's picture

He had way more than Shields who was out of the league for a bit because of them. What are you talking about? IF Favre had 1 concussion a year over 20 seasons he could suddenly be a dead man walking within a few years! You have no idea how rapid and steep the decline can be.:(

Qoojo's picture

Meh. Favre did not suffer a thousand concussions in his pro career let alone thousands. Just do the math. Approximately 300 games played, so 1000/300 = 3.33_ concussions per game. Then if you go with thousands, that means over 6 per game. Now factor in that during Sherman's era, the OL was really good and kept Favre clean a lot.

This is just hyperbole by favre. If he received 3+ concussions per week for 5 months out of the year for 15-20 years, he would just be sitting and drooling at this point. I do not doubt that he got more concussions than reported, but it's nowhere near as high as even a thousand. I doubt if it is even as high as 100.

Given all the data on football, I do think he will have issues as he gets older.

Royalty Free GM's picture

OMG, are you a robot?
I have million reasons to believe you are.

worztik's picture


Bearmeat's picture

This is exactly what I was saying. Yes, Favre was the ultimate Iron-Man. But he was never quiet about it. The more you talk, the more people tune you out. Plus, he doesn't have the skill of speaking or writing eloquently... I'm just saying it doesn't add up to him being any kind of spokesman for any serious issue. Hyperbole is not what is needed in this issue if the owners are going to be eventually forced to do anything. Specificity is.

What about Peppers? Also an Iron-Man. Or Woodson? Not quite an Iron-Man, but almost always available, and he is highly intelligent.

Johnblood27's picture

figure at your number of 100 pro concussions...

add in another 12 years of youth, HS and college football.

The number goes from 100 pro to 150 pro plus pre-pro.

Then add in his night-life and the number comes to thousands...

Bure9620's picture

Yes Brett Favre loves to talk about himself blah blah blah. Moving forward my updated mock;

Round 1 Pick 14: McGlinchey, Mike, OT, Notre Dame (B+)
Round 2 Pick 13: Jackson, Donte, CB, LSU (A-)
Round 3 Pick 16 (HOU): Thomas, Ian, TE, Indiana (A)
Round 3 Pick 34 (HOU): Bates III, Jessie, FS, Wake Forest (A)
Round 4 Pick 5 (CHI): Freeman, Royce, RB, Oregon (A+)
Round 5 Pick 1: Burks, Oren, OLB, Vanderbilt (A+)
Round 5 Pick 8 (CHI): Nichols, Bilal, DT, Delaware (A)
Round 5 Pick 35: Fountain, Daurice, WR, Northern Iowa (A+)
Round 5 Pick 37: Hill, Holton, CB, Texas (A+)
Round 6 Pick 6 (T.B.): Mataafa, Hercules, OLB, Washington State (A+)
Round 7 Pick 14: Ramesh, Austin, FB, Wisconsin (A+)
Round 7 Pick 21: Robertson, Korey, WR, Southern Miss (A+)

No I did not take WR early or a pass rusher. I am not sold on Davneport as he has a very high pad level and has not shown an ability to bend, really uneven film. Landry can bend but can't defend the run and got washed out on many plays, he could be good player but not a 1st rounder. Very weak pass rush class outside of Chubb IMO
McGlinchey checks the measurable boxes and can be the eventual replacement for Bulaga on the right side. TT and likely BG put enormous value on tackles as they are not given help in this offense and seeing Spriggs lack of develoment and Bulaga likely on PUP, Tackle is one of the biggest needs IMO. I think guard is fine, McCray played well and did not recieve much credit for it, good run blocker too. He can start.
I also think they rely on the progession of Gilbert and Biegel on the edge. I think Gilbert was a true diamond in the rough find and if Kyler Fackrell plays ahead of him I may lose it. Daurice Fountain is my mid round sleeper, the dude can jump, great hands. I also think Yancey makes a big jump this year. Bottom line, we cannot address ALL the holes on this roster, with House and Tramon signing, the Packers can go BPA.

Royalty Free GM's picture

Bure - which TE would you draft in round 2, if you had to?

I would also like to have Mataafa, Hercules in Round 6, but I think he is gone at late 4th/early 5th round?

Bure9620's picture

Goedert and Gesecki are close but Goedert is a better blocker and more of a football player. Thomas is a close 3rd for me.

stockholder's picture

Wrong . 1. They'll take Conner Williams before Mike M. I'm still taking J. Jackson CB. yet. 2. Donte Jackson is to small. if they get Jackson, it should be Collins or Hernandez next. 3. Gallop WR or Brown WR. here. 4. @101!! Fountain WR must go here. He's opened to many eyes! The biggest mistake that TT made was not selecting the NFL type body. Small bodies stay on practice squads.

Bure9620's picture

Stockholder do you mean Connor Williams?? Ya hes very athletic, would not be disappointed there, just think McGlinchey is more pro ready now.

stockholder's picture

Yes . I like the size of Williams better. The QB will see the field better. And throw better! He's faster and can be moved to the inside. Look at the current heights of what they had! And what they have! Williams is perfect for the packers.

Royalty Free GM's picture

If we trust Pettine... which I do... then we should attack aggressively:
WR Ridley, TE Goedert, CB Meeks, EDGE Carter
WR Ridley, CB Hughes , TE Andrews , EDGE Armstrong

We are gonna score first!

oceanstrength's picture

Favre is no Doctor and he is no rocket scientist either. How he can make a absurd, self interested, hyperbolic statement, and be given credibility for it is just plain bad journalism. Zackery Jacobson is just another wannabee sensational story hustler. I watched 'League of Denial' and 'Concussion', and am concerned about the leagues corruption and now 'sudden concern' for head injuries. But to take Favre, the farting, butt slapping, burping, dick texting, child in a man's body as reality is ridiculous.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Favre is an attention seeker. He'd do or say anything, or exaggerate things, to focus attention on himself. I didn't like him when he was a packer, having soured on him well before he left GB.

He is the worst spokesman I could imagine for an otherwise serious and disturbing issue.

WKUPackFan's picture

Looking back at Favre's quotes above, it is difficult to see where he is exaggerating anything regarding this issue. Quibbling over whether an occurrence of brain trauma rises to level of a concussion is counterproductive. Medical science has proven that repeated brain trauma leads to cognitive impairment.

Again, Favre's statement about 8-15 year olds being exposed to brain trauma is the main point. Regardless of whether Favre is an attention seeker, his statement about youth football participation rings true and hopefully helps bring about change.

holmesmd's picture

No it’s not. It’s called trauma associated research! There is tons of it in the medical & combat fields. The confounding variable you are attempting to describe can be addressed in proper study design.

Lare's picture

With the occurrences of dementia and Alzheimers increasing in the general population, it's impossible to determine how many sports participants are affected due to trauma or due to genetic traits.

We also have to factor in the lower numbers of reported concussion-related issues in the other contact sports such as hockey & boxing which raise questions as to the veracity of claims by some NFL players.

Yes, concussions are an issue with any sport where the head and brain are subject to contact. But to say specifically where and when many concussions occur is subjective at best.

flackcatcher's picture

Two points. Our understanding has grown thanks to scanning technology that allows a pretty detailed look into peoples brains while still alive. To call the results shocking would be a vast understatement. Any sport which features players hitting each other over time is at risk as our knowledge grows. I am not surprised that hockey, especially the pro version would want nothing to do with any long term study of brain trauma. Too bad, if they like pro football want to survive into the 21st century, then they have to take this (excuse me) 'heads on'. Frankly, there is only one profession that accepts the risk, and that is the profession of arms. And the military is devoting a great deal of resources to fine a way to minimize the damage. It would be in contact sports best interest, to try to get ahead of this issue before they are 'head butted' into oblivion. (Sorry, I could not help myself.....0:)

Ferrari Driver's picture

I don't doubt that Favre has had a goodly number of concussions, but all of them are likely related to the game at the NFL level.

With the way he has fooled around, a couple may have come from his wife.

Rebecca's picture

This entire opinion factory is full of concussed individuals! Davonte Adams should be a candidate for early retirement because of concussions. Draft wideout early please.

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