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NFL Kicks Off Wellness Program for Current, Retired Players

Former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson wanted players to receive help with brain injuries.

Spurred no doubt by the suicide of former all-Pro Junior Seau and the myriad lawsuits in recent months over brain injuries, the NFL launched a comprehensive wellness program for current and retired players — including a confidential mental health Life Line.

“There is no higher priority for the National Football League than the health and wellness of our players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an email Thursday to more than 11,000 players announcing NFL Total Wellness. “This service is here for you.”

NFL Life Line is a free consultation service run by a private agency to inform players and family members about the signs of crisis, symptoms of common mental health problems, as well as where to get help. Experts in suicide prevention and substance abuse are among those involved in developing and administering the program.

The site also features special video messages from various NFL stars, including Michael Irvin, Brett Favre, Michael Strahan, Cris Carter, Herschel Walker and Jevon Kearse. In it, they urge players to get seek help, understanding they are not alone in their troubles.

The announcement comes just days after former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler became the latest big name from the NFL’s past to sue the league over head injuries.

Stabler is the first plaintiff among 73 listed in a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Philadelphia, where other cases involving more than 2,400 players recently were consolidated into one master complaint.

Stabler, 66, claimed in the lawsuit he has experienced cognitive difficulties, including headaches, dizziness, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, irritability and numbness/tingling in his spine.

Others raised questions in death.

Seau’s family recently requested that brain tissue of the NFL linebacker be sent to the National Institutes of Health for examination. He died May 2 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He was 43, just 2½ years retired from a career that saw him chosen to 12 Pro Bowls.

His death had similarities to that of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest last year. Duerson left a suicide note, asking that his brain be studied for signs of trauma.

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