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Wife Of Former Ohio State, NFL Safety Rob Kelly Wrote Heartbreaking Op-Ed About Husband's Brain Damage

The opening kickoff takes place between Iowa and Ohio State during the first quarter on September 24, 2005 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 24: The opening kickoff takes place between Iowa and Ohio State during the first quarter on September 24, 2005 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Iowa 31-6. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Former Ohio State and New Orleans Saints safety Rob Kelly has suffered "neuropsychological dysfunction" in the years following his football career.

We continue to learn more about the effects of football on the brain, and the results are not encouraging. Today's op-ed by Rob Kelly's wife Emily in The New York Times is a sobering and powerful read on the subject.

Kelly played his college football at Ohio State. From there, he was a second-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft.

He played for the Saints until 2001, and then after signing with the New England Patriots, retired prior to the 2002 season after a training camp injury.

In the grand scheme of things, that isn't a terribly long NFL career. However, it appears that it was more than enough for Kelly to suffer some of the worst effects of football-based brain injury.

"Professional football is a brutal sport, he knew that. But he loved it anyway. And he accepted the risks of bruises and broken bones. What he didn’t know was that along with a battered body can come a battered mind," Kelly wrote about her husband.

In the op-ed, she says that in the last few years, Kelly has experienced mood swings and depression. In 2016, he weighed 157 pounds, after checking in at around 200 pounds during his playing career.

A doctor who examined Rob Kelly when he applied for the disability benefits established for players in 2013 said that football was a likely factor in his issues. From Emily Kelly's piece:

The examining clinician found that “repeated concussion is very likely to have caused Mr. Kelly’s neuropsychological dysfunction,” and also that his prior alcohol abuse may have been a factor. But he has not had a single drop of alcohol for eight years, and his condition continues to deteriorate.

After years of little to no sleep, he alternated between sleeping either three hours a night or 20. I’d wake up to find every blind and curtain in the house closed and Rob sitting on the sofa with a blank expression on his face. He no longer felt comfortable driving, refused to leave the house and cut off contact with everyone.

Kelly is the member of a private Facebook group of wives and other women who have former NFL players in their lives. Many of them experience similar erratic behaviors that she does with Rob.

It wasn’t until I joined a private Facebook group of more than 2,400 women, all connected in some way to current or former N.F.L. players, that I realized I wasn’t alone.


Symptoms consistent with C.T.E. are a recurring topic in the Facebook group. They include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression and anxiety. These problems become apparent sometimes years or even decades after a player hangs up his helmet.

One woman may write a post, desperate and afraid of the man her husband is becoming — the rage, mood swings, depression, memory loss. A man so drastically different from the one she once knew. Hundreds of comments will follow, woman after woman confirming that she is going through the exact same thing.

Emily Kelly's op-ed is a tough read for any football fan. But it is something that we should all reckon with ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.

[The New York Times]