Baylor College of Medicine teamed with the NFL Player Care Foundation, the American Urological Association Foundation and the Boone Heart Institute on Saturday, March 3, to offer important health screenings to former NFL players living in the Houston area.
While health care was the focus of the event, it also served as an alumni reunion for former NFLers. Some caught up with old buddies – teammates and opponents alike – while others met for the first time and compared notes on their playing careers.
Social aspect draws participants
In fact, the social aspect is what drew many of the ex-players to the screening event, noted Dr. Jeffrey Boone, director of the Boone Heart Institute and national co-director of the NFL Player Care Foundation Cardiovascular Program sponsored by the NFL, the NFL Player's Association, the NFL Hall of Fame and the NFL Alumni Association.
"Men don't like to go to the doctor, and these guys are no different," said Boone, who started the NFL cardiovascular screening program and has expanded it across the country. "But these events are fun for them, and that makes them much more likely to get important preventive health checks."
About 60 former players received free cardiology and prostate screenings at Baylor Clinic on Saturday, one of the most successful events organized by the Player Care Foundation for NFL alumni.
David Carter, an offensive lineman for the Houston Oilers from 1977 to 1984 and president of the NFL Alumni Association – Houston Chapter, stressed the importance of health screenings for former players.
"This is one of the most important things the NFL does for its former players," he said. "A lot of guys experience health issues after their playing careers, and getting these screenings can be a real life saver. We're very appreciative to Baylor, also, for participating in this program."
When players retire, they often see a marked decrease in daily physical activity. This may result in weight gain and the associated health risks, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer.
On Saturday, the former players received a general health assessment, a cardiovascular function evaluation and sleep apnea risk assessment as well as a prostate exam, including a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
Keep up with routine exams
Some of the ex-players also had important diagnostic tests run during the screening day. Two CT techs, Cristina Trevino and Sarah Cernocek, performed CT Calcium Scoring tests on some players on Dr. Boone's recommendation. Dr. Veronica Lenge De Rosen, assistant professor of radiology, did a preliminary reading and called the men back to review the images of their heart and explain what they meant. A total of 46 former NFL players had a CT scan conducted by diagnostic services. Other diagnostic services assisting included Monica Harding, Tim Bramer and Peggy Ottosen.
"My team and I were honored to help out with this event," said Dr. Larry Lipshultz, professor and chief of male reproductive medicine and surgery in the Scott Department of Urology at BCM, who provided the prostate screenings. "By participating in this event, these former athletes set a great example for all men about the importance of keeping up with routine health checks."
As the former players waited for their appointments, they could be heard introducing themselves to each other, talking about the teams they played for and getting updates on their NFL brethren they lost touch with.
Two former NFL players were exuberant when they saw each other in the waiting area. Cleveland Franklin and Gary Green were roommates at Baylor University before landing in the NFL – Franklin with the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Colts and Green with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams.
They said they hadn't seen each other in years and had a lot of catching up to do, including talking about the NFL prospect of fellow Baylor Bear and 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III.
Others came in together, like father and son duo Gerald Irons and Grant Irons, linebackers who both played for the Raiders during their careers. The elder Irons, a long-time member of the Conroe Independent School District board of trustees, said that he always stressed the importance of education among his four sons and was now proud to pass on the important message about preventive health checks.
Also arriving together were brothers Diron and Don Talbert. The latter was an offensive lineman for the 1971 Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys, and proudly showed off his ring to his peers as well as BCM employees.
"It's great to come together with others who shared the same experience that you did," Carter said. "The atmosphere is fun – not at all like going to the doctor."