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Chris Conte: I’d rather play in the NFL and die 10-15 years earlier

Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears

Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears

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Bears safety Chris Conte has suffered a back injury, two concussions, a shoulder injury and an eye injury this season. And he says he’s OK with that.

Conte told WBBM in Chicago that playing football means so much to him that he’s willing to do it even if it’s bad for his long-term health.

“I’d rather have the experience of playing in the NFL and die 10 to 15 years earlier than not play in the NFL and have a long life,” he said. “I don’t really look toward my life after football. I’ll figure things out when I get there. As long as I outlive my parents.”

Conte’s point of view actually isn’t much different from that of people in all walks of life who say they’d rather enjoy the years they have than delay death as long as possible. Some people enjoy skiing, some people enjoy rock climbing, some people enjoy eating junk food. All of those things have health risks, but if a consenting adult chooses to accept the risk, who’s to tell him he shouldn’t?

But what Conte may not realize is that the risks associated with playing in the NFL are more about quality of life in old age than about taking years off life. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “On average, NFL players are actually living longer than the average American male.”

What Conte and all NFL players should weigh is the risk of injuries suffered on the football field affecting them later in life. Conte probably will live to be a senior citizen, and he will probably want to be not just alive but healthy when he’s 60, 70 or 80. Conte says in his 20s that the enjoyment he gets out of playing football makes the risk worth it. I hope he says the same when he’s in his 80s.