Aikman praises NFL's new testing for concussions
Aikman does get migraine headaches. But he's had them all his life and he says they're not related to football.
Last week, a study of more than 2,500 retired NFL players found that those who had at least three concussions during their careers had triple the risk of clinical depression as those who had none.
"I think people got the impression that Steve Young and I were forced out by concussions. For me, it was more my back," said the 40-year-old Aikman who retired six years ago.
"I've had no problems since," he added, saying he hasn't suffered from depression. "From my perspective, I think I got off relatively lightly. I think defensive players are far more at risk than quarterbacks -- they get hit on every play and may often have concussions they don't know about."
Aikman said his migraines are triggered by cigarette smoke and airline travel, which he does more now in his capacity as a broadcaster than he did as a player.
He said his headaches were diagnosed as migraines only after he consulted a doctor last year.
Aikman said that while migraines have been thought to affect mostly women, studies show that seven million males -- 6 percent of the population -- get them.
"I think a lot of men think they can tough it out," Aikman said. "My advice to them is to see their doctors."
Aikman praised the NFL for its recent decision to run baseline tests on all players in training camp so the league can later determine if their brains have been damaged from hits to the head.
"The fact that doctors will now have a record of how much change there has been is a huge step forward," he said.
Aikman's sentiments were echoed by Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy during the Colts' workouts in Indianapolis.
"We certainly know a lot more now than we did 15 years ago," said Dungy, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s.
"In our case, the doctors have always had a say in when a guy plays. When a guy gets here we do a baseline test and when a guy gets a concussion, we do the same test again. He's not allowed to play again until he scores in the same range and that's not how it was when I played, but I think our players deserve that care."
One of those defensive players Aikman was discussing, Colts safety Bob Sanders, said he often thinks about the long-term effects.
"Your life is way more important; it goes beyond playing football," said Sanders, known for his hard hits. "We live and breathe playing football, but it isn't forever. That's why NFL stands for Not For Long. It doesn't last forever."
"Once it's over and if you can't think or your mind is affected, it can be devastating for some guys," he added. "They can pay for it later, so you have to do what you can to get educated and don't come back just so you can be out there. Don't come back until you're clear."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press