On Saturday, August 24, Andrew Luck, the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, announced his retirement. The news came as a shock to fans, as Luck is only 29 years old, therefore relatively young to retire. The thought of stepping down had not crossed his mind until two weeks ago, Luck said, but he mentioned that he has “clarity” about his decision. “I feel tired and not just in the physical sense … I am unable to pour my heart and soul into this position,” Luck explained.
Luck gave a 25-minute press conference explaining why he has made this choice. During it, he described how his multiple injuries — involving his ribs, shoulder, kidney, a concussion, and recently his calf and ankle — have led to an “unrelenting” cycle of pain and rehabilitation. He said that this decision was the hardest choice he has ever had to make, but he knows it is the right thing to do.
Berkeley High School (BHS) football coach and former National Football League (NFL) player James Hodgins agrees with Luck’s decision and advises young players to listen to their bodies. He said, “the lesson in this is simple, the human being is more important than the athlete … who you are as a person is more important than your career choice. [Don’t] risk your health and mental well being trying to please others or just to make more money.”
Despite having missed 26 games in his NFL career due to injuries, Luck has had an impressive career. Seven years ago, he was the NFL’s number one draft pick out of Stanford. Last season, Luck won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. He has produced a 53-33 record in 86 regular season games. He threw 39 touchdowns last season, making it one of his best.
Luck is not the first player to retire because of injuries; former NFL offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger experienced similar afflictions. He suffered from extreme back pain and felt drained. He was forced to play through the pain and had to continually push back surgery. Sometimes the pain got so bad that Ohrnberger could not sleep, and his leg would repeatedly become temporarily paralyzed; he finally retired in 2015 after receiving back surgery.
Football injuries have been in the news a lot lately, specifically about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blunt trauma to the head, which happens frequently in football. Parents have started to become more reluctant to let their children play football because of the risk of major injury. Luck’s decision to retire demonstrates the physical toll football takes on one’s body.
Not all fans have been accepting of Luck’s decision. The crowd booed as he walked to the sidelines at his final game of his career. Critics of Luck’s departure questioned his physical strength and loyalty to the Colts, not fully realizing the pain he has had to endure.
Hodgins strongly disagreed with this reaction, saying that it is important to trust players when they say they cannot continue. Being a player in the NFL is an extremely grueling career, and it is the fans’ responsibility to understand the consequences that come with that. He said, “Imagine a world where someone came to your school or job and second guessed every decision you made in a day, would the average person take such a strong stance if someone questioned everything they did? It’s called empathy!”
Luck’s announcement sets an example for other players that retiring could be the right choice for them. Drew Magary, a columnist at Deadspin sports news, noted that if other players follow suit, the NFL might have to take action, though owners would be hesitant to do so. He mentioned three possible outcomes: the NFL could reduce the number of games per season, give players free healthcare for life, or pay concussion settlement claims.