This study aims to uncover and describe stories of progressive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral decline in NFL players, as told by those who may know them best: their wives. The goal of the study was to simply explore and understand this new phenomenon with a group of individuals who had not yet been asked to voice their experiences. For this qualitative study, we conducted interviews with 20 wives of current and retired NFL players. Through thematic analysis of the wives’ narratives, we identified four themes that help to describe the wives’ attitudes and experiences. These were (a) Husbands’ Willingness to Conceal Concussions, (b) Husbands Become Unrecognizable, (c) An Emotional Toll on Wives and Families, and (d) Frustrations with the NFL. Our interviews provided vivid, emotionally charged descriptions of both men and women whose lives were irrevocably altered, presumably by a concussion history related to the game of football.


Concussion, Football, NFL, Wives, Progressive Neurodegenerative Disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Brain Injury, Thematic Analysis

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Caroline Faure, EdD; ATC, is a Professor of Sport Science at Idaho State University and the Founder and Director of the Center for Sports Concussion at ISU. Her primary research focus is in the area of concussion as it relates to attitudes, perceptions, and management. She publishes and speaks regularly on the effects of sport concussion and on administrative responsibility at state, national and international levels. In 2010 and again in 2012, she led legislature efforts in Idaho and was able to convince the legislature to pass strict concussion management legislation related to young athletes. She continues to work with sport leaders across a multitude of disciplines to enhance concussion education efforts. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: faurcaro@isu.edu.

Madeline P. Casanova, MPE, is a doctoral student in Sport Psychology at the University of Idaho. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Madeline’s research interests are related to the psychosocial aspects of injury and individual well-being. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: madelinepcasanova@gmail.com.

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