There's a great article over in SFGate about the consequences of a football career later in life. It focuses on the '81 SF 49ers, who began a dynasty with "The Catch" and the victory over the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. It's a little distressing to me to hear about Joe Montana's persistent injuries--eye damage, knee damage, and he can't turn his head--considering how lively and happy he always looked.
How is Peyton Manning going to feel after taking every snap for the Colts for twelve years? How will Thomas Jones feel after years of being battered by defenders? How will Jeff Saturday feel after years of brutal collisions at every snap? They wear pads, and the players these days have better medical benefits than the '81 teams did, but the chance of avoiding chronic medical conditions arising from a pro football career is pretty low. 2 of 3 players interviewed for the article admitted to suffering chronic, near-constant pain, and this in a sport that prizes machismo and downplaying injury.
The other thing, though, is that nearly all the players said they wouldn't trade their career for better health. They are aware that what they are doing is rough, and will have consequences, but the rush of playing and the love of competition makes it worth it, to them.
So as you watch the Colts beat the Bears on Sunday (like how I snuck my prediction in there?), take a moment to appreciate what the players are giving up to play the game, and appreciate your own good health.