Hall of Famer Tarkenton concerned about head injuries and PED use in NFL


Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton was in Canton, Ohio, last weekend for the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of his friend and former teammate Mick Tingelhoff.

He appeared on KFAN with Dan Barreiro earlier this week and discussed the trip.

Tarkenton had the opportunity to run across some former teammates, coaches and even opponents, but it's the condition that he found many of those former stars of the NFL that is bothering the former quarterback.

"So many are challenged," Tarkenton told Barreiro. "So many cannot come that are in the Hall of Fame because they are challenged" by health problems related to playing the game.

One of those greatly affected is Tingelhoff, whom Tarkenton spoke for during Saturday's induction ceremony.

Tingelhoff never missed a game during his 17-year Vikings career, where he protected Tarkenton as the Vikings longtime center. He was known for his toughness, which allowed him to make 240 consecutive starts.

But the number of head injuries and concussions he had over the years has taken their toll. Tingelhoff's nephew Tim Saulsbury told the Sioux City Journal that the 75-year-old Tingelhoff has lost much of his short-term memory.

And Tingelhoff isn't alone.

Brain trauma is expected to impact about one in three NFL players. Roughly 28 percent of former players are expected to have some compensable injuries. And pro football players are nearly eight times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or dementia than the general population.

Concerned about the future

Given the condition of many former NFL stars, Tarkenton said he's very concerned about the impact of today's vicious hits on the current players.

"The concussions we know took the toll on the players of our generation," Tarkenton told Barreiro. "I hope and pray the present ownership in this league and leadership in this league will really understand that the safety of our players is at the forefront."

The biggest problem is what he called an epidemic of performance-enhancing drugs in the game today, making bodies bigger, stronger and faster.

The problem is so great in the NFL that former All-Pro running back Eddie George called the use of PEDs rampant, in an interview he gave with Sports Illustrated earlier this year.

"These young men will not live to my age," Tarkenton said. "They will not live to their 60s."

He adds that it's time for the NFL and college football to get the performance-enhancing drugs out of the game, in order to preserve the sport and its players.

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