Kyle Turley: “I’ve got a lot of anger issues I’d say…”

January 28, 2010 – 10:45 am by Michael Bean

Remember Kyle Turley? If you’re an NFL fan you most likely do. If you don’t, a quick refresher – he was a former All Pro lineman for the Saints and Rams most famous for ripping the helmet off a Jets player at the bottom of a scrum back in 2001, only to heave said helmet (see video below) to the delight of the Saints home crowd that evening. Today, Turley is making waves for much more noble efforts. He’s one of the outspoken former players on the issue of head injuries in the NFL. I highly reccommend you read Malcom Gladwell’s recent article comparing dog fighting to football in the New Yorker for the full run down on Turley’s efforts, but for now, take a listen to him join The Dan LeBetard Show on 790 The Ticket in Miami to talk about how his life is affected by the concussions he suffered, how he’d give up all that he has today to not be riddled with such mental and physical ailments, what his suggestions are to improve the safety of players, how he has self described anger issues, and how he finds refuge playing music on stage as his preferred form of anger management.

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On the inhumane nature of football:

“Well it’s not completely inhumane what we do. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, that’s for sure. It’s just it has its consequences and myself amongst many others have started to feel those consequences too early in life and it’s kind of scary when you have issues going on that you shouldn’t have – dealing with memory loss and dealing with depression and anxiety and all these other things that don’t really have reasons to be in your life, on too many levels outside of the doctors telling you when they bring it up and when they go through their list of symptoms of what you’re experiencing, they go ‘well have you had a lot of concussions when you were playing football.’ And then you start to research what a concussion is, and yeah, I’ve had a lot of them. So it’s taking its toll on me, it’s taken its toll on a lot of guys, but I’m working hard to get this thing resolved to where we can get some help around this thing so guys in the future don’t have to go through this.”

On if he’d attribute his issues (depression, anxiety, and others) on playing the game of football:

“I do, I believe that the concussions caused these things, and being a football player having had a handful of concussions, whether they be minor or major, it doesn’t really matter because of the way we go about the game of football – in that we’re programmed, pre-programmed, to just go and keep going and unless somebody stops us we’re just going to do that. And so I know I’ve done damage to my brain. I’ve got things going on that are unexplainable outside of that. I’m on some good medications right now that seem to be helping, but that kind of sucks – I’m only 34 and I have to be on medication the rest of my life.”

On the issues he’s dealing with physically and mentally since retiring from football:

“You know, you’ve got a very high sensitivity to light. Since my last episode where it was pretty serious – I passed out in the middle of nowhere at this bar watching a show. I wasn’t even drinking. I just passed out and woke up and had people around me and this and that, and no knowledge of why that happened. I went to the hospital because I went in to a full on fit of vertigo and just a real ugly scenario. I had to have people hold me down to get me in an MRI machine. I had about four people holding me down in the ER to get an MRI on my head. And I spent about three days in the hospital. So that wasn’t too fun and since that episode I’ve had a lot of ongoing issues with very high sensitivity to light. I’ve almost passed out a couple times driving which is scary at night. And the depression and the anxiety issues are unfortunate because they just creep up on  you. You’re fine one minute and then it hits you. It’s somewhere in your brain there’s some loose wiring from all that banging around.”

On if he’d choose any other career path if given the chance all over again:

“No I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t go back and do it the way I’ve done it, which is why I’m out there really trying to change these things. Because it shouldn’t have been up to me to come back after having a serious concussion – one of the highest grade concussions you can have I had playing in St. Louis in 2003. I was knocked unconscious, I had to get woke up off the field and walked to the sideline, and the way I was treated in that situation and was able to play the next week wouldn’t and shouldn’t have been the case if I had the right people advising me, looking over my situation and if the right rules were followed. So with The Gridiron Greats along with others that have been advocates to speak out on this issue, trying to get this changed. People are out there, there’s articles being written, ‘oh the government’s got better things to do than to get involved with football.’ Well, unfortunately there’s about 5.3 million people that play this sport in this country and ever year about $60 billion goes down the tube in treating people for situations having to do with head trauma injuries to take care of normal life situations for people. So it is a very big problem and it needs to be addressed and it needs to be fixed and someone has to do it.”

On the culture of the game and how players are encouraged to play at all costs:

“Well the problem is the coaches and the general managers have control of everything. Because of our Collective Bargaining Agreements that have been negotiated by our union, they’ve basically given free rein to coaches and teams to do whatever they will with us and to encourage us to fight through injuries we shouldn’t have to fight through. And on the issue of head trauma, it’s near criminal the way we’ve been treated in that regard because it’s such a sensitive issue dealing with the brain, something you can’t really see. When you sprain an ankle it swells up; when you dislocate a knee it’s out of place; you blow a tendon you can’t walk anymore. But with a brain situation, it has to be advised by a professional. There has to be a neurologist on the sideline. They’ve got plenty of money to do it. There’s no reason why an independent neurologist shouldn’t be at every NFL football game. Having one in the booth watching the replays so they can know who’s dinged and who’s not. Because I’ve seen some games – I saw a game this last season when they’re supposedly making changes – where I think it was the Jets and Miami. One of Miami’s defensive backs in the 2nd quarter I think took an unbelievable blow to the head and was knocked unconscious for a near second but gathered himself together and wobbled his way back to the huddle. And he was never looked at and never taken out of the game, and I know that that guy was playing on auto-pilot for the rest of that game as a player personally. And the effects of second impact are very serious and need to be taken serious because that’s the most damaging thing to the brain – it’s not necessarily the initial concussion, it’s the second impact syndrome that starts to develop these scenarios later on in life where you have issues like mine and other guys that go in to early onset Alzheimers, dementia and all these other that deal with things that you shouldn’t experience until you’re in your 80s and 90s and losing your marbles by nature. It’s just something that needs to be taken out of the players and out of the hands of the coaches. Ben Roethlisberger should never have been given the choice whether to play or not, to create the drama in that locker room. Kurt Warner same thing – should never have been given the choice. They should have been advised properly by the proper authorities on the issue, not an orthopedic guy that the team has hired to come in and give you a quick look over of how you are. Because they have no clue of how to deal with the very specific things in specialized treatment of head injuries.”

On if he has ‘anger issues’:

“Well I’m human so of course I do. I was born with it. But I entered the game of football and sports in general, and was taught by some of the greatest people I could ever been taught by to play football, to wrestle, to do anything. And they instilled in me a work ethic that doesn’t accept defeat and mediocrity. So I guess in certain situations I expect a little bit more out of myself and out of others so that can create some anger issues on its own. Dealing with a society that’s seeming to be more and more everyday careless of everyone and everything, and not mindful and not respectful. So I’ve got a lot of anger issues I’d say. And I just try to live happy and surround myself with good people so I don’t have to touch that button.”

After LeBetard jokingly calls him a maniac, Turley concludes with:

“I am who I am brother. And now I’m playing my music, it’s fun. That’s my anger management now, I’ll title my debut album ‘Anger Management.’ Fans can check it out on gridironrecords.com, and check out my tour schedule, and that’s where you’ll see me doing my anger management – up on stage.”

Listen to Kyle Turley on 790 the Ticket in Miami with Dan LeBetard

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