Football star Harry Carson was known as the “indestructible” inside linebacker for the New York Giants. He served as team captain for 10 of his 13 seasons (1976-88) and helped the Giants defeat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI in 1987. He was a star athlete and an icon -in-the-making and looked to have everything. Nevertheless, back then, feel happy or he could barely seem to stabilize his mood. He was overcome by depressive episodes, as well as in 1990 Carson was identified as having post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Symptoms of PCS include headache, dizziness, sleep problems, challenges with memory and attention, together with stress, irritability, and depression.
Carson, now 59, had many of these symptoms yet he failed to understand what he was coping with. Unfortunately, it took a toll on his first union, he says. He is remarried and living a healthier life, today. Carson says he still gets blue although the dreary days of depression are behind him. He also can be a bit forgetful, and bothered by loud noises and flashing lights, he says.
Carson has taken a more natural approach to healing. He worked his way from depression using novels that were inspiring. And his treatment for dealing with staying symptoms, he says, is a fish oil regimen and hyperbaric therapy, which can be thought to greatly help regenerate the mind in the cellular level. To receive hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) therapy, an individual is put into a pressure chamber set at atmosphere pressure more than standard and is given pure oxygen via the chamber surroundings or occasionally through an oxygen mask. Carson is a supporter of the therapy, and recommends it to the NFL as something that will help other players – many of whom have endured from dings (concussions) and depression as well as more serious wellness problems.
Carson says he’s more fortunate than many retired football players in that he has been able to spot and treat his condition. He stays active in his memory of days that are less happy transfers him to continue to speak out about the challenges many football players face and his service to the city.
“I found it really easy to share, not that I was looking to function as the face of the issue, but for individuals who do not have a voice I strive my best to speak on their behalf,” he says. ??
We spoke about his journey to Carson through some of the manners pro football players suffer quietly through their injuries and depression.
Regular Health: What was your experience with depression like?
Harry Carson: I started to experience depression while I was playing. It wasn’t long after I hung up my helmet and shoulder pads. Midway with the Giants through my career I recognized I would have these dark periods where I might feel a feeling of depression envelope me. I’d be depressed for no reason, and I could not really discuss it with folks. If I was to tell someone I am depressed, and then the next words out of their mouth would be “Why would you be depressed? You are a pro football player and you’re making gobs of cash and got all this popularity and what have you got to be depressed about?” So, I kept to myself then I understood there were times where I Had get really, genuinely low.
How bad did it get for you?
I felt hopeless and a few times suicidal. I was living in Ossining, N.Y., and I was driving to practice at Giants Stadium during the course of the season every day, and I had to drive across the Tappan Zee Bridge. There were one or two times when I had this thought of quickening as I got on the bridge and just sort of going through the guard rail. I had seen or heard that their car stopped and jumped off. The thing that really got my attention, or snapped me out of it was I had a daughter who at that time was one or two years of age. If anything happened to me what would occur to her I believed to myself. That was my saving grace, to realize that I was depended on by my daughter. It kept me out of this spot to do something reckless that I might repent.
How did you bring yourself back from depression?
I got to some stage where I’d feel up those blue moods creep and then I’d find a method to placate myself or do something that will make matters better. I started buying inspirational novels and reading passages that might give me a comprehension of what’s important – and what’s unimportant – and the best thing about life. I tried to inspire my own personal way back to snapping from it and being grateful for what I had.
Did you ever reach out for help?
It was not until my last year that I went to the medical staff, and to the Giants. The season wasn’t going great, but we had won a match and everyone was happy – but I was not. Where I was not happy about winning, I was in that dreary area. A teammate of mine used to say I ‘d the correct initials (H.C.), because I was hot and cold. Sometimes, I’d be up and quick and everything was comical, and I was the life of the party. There were other times where I was very quiet and not considerably open and I kept to myself. I think there are several people who could identify and recognized that, and there were other individuals who did not pay attention. I went to the training staff and said “I just wish to put on the record that I am not hurt physically, but I am depressed.” The trainer, Ronnie Barnes, said, “What you desire me to do about that?” I said, you don’t have to do anything, only alarming you and placing you on notice that I am depressed.” That was the first time that I said anything to anyone about depression.
Do you still grapple with depression?
Every once in a while, I feel myself slide into that style, although not as much as I used to. I stay active with all sorts of things, and so I simply don’t have to get depressed or get overwhelmed by things.
There have been recent studies linking depression in football players with injuries and concussions. Some of the football players were shocked to know their melancholy was due to football injuries.
Football players are trained to play. They aren’t scientists and they are not doctors. Keep in mind that what they experience is something they’ve experienced from the very first time they stepped on the football field, whether it’s Pop Warner (the country’s largest and earliest youth football and youth cheerleading organization) or high school. When they got to the NFL, they did not just begin getting concussions. It’s something which they’ve already had on the low level. It’s something that they’ve gotten used to because it comes with the territory. If it’s something you cannot tolerate or deal with, then you’d have stop when you first started playing the game.??
And the surroundings of football is not just nurturing in regards to players showing any weakness.
Keep in mind, that you’re conditioned early on. This is a male thing. Parents and trainers do it and it, respectively to their players. When you look at a young man from the time he gets knocked down and he starts crying what do you say and from the time he’s a little boy? “Be a big lad!” If you are a father, you have an inclination to say, “Be a huge boy, demanding it out.” Boys have the inclination demonstrate they’re just like dad and they are demanding – and they can deal with pain and distress. When they are in pain they have a tendency to suck it up when they play football. Because you have got your peer group there you rough it out. You do not want it to be seen by parents and you do not need supporters to see it.
What made you speak out?
After I had been diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, I understood how I felt and what I was going through. And I knew there likely are plenty of other players – they simply do not know what they are dealing with. I see players that are coping with this specific dilemma, and players who are older than me who are coping with Alzheimer’s and dementia and Lou Gehrig’s disease. I do not think it’s a coincidence that these neurological problems are being dealt with by many of these guys as they’re getting older just because they are becoming elderly. I think there’s some connection between what they did when playing with the sport, and the damage they may have endured. I get phone calls from an extensive variety of individuals working with problems, rationally based, physical or mental – folks who call me are having these issues. I strive my best to talk on their behalf.
Would you think retiring additionally causes melancholy for players?
I have seen that there are a lot of players who attempted to transition in life and were not able to get on track. They were unable to live productive lives when they left football. I understand after I was floundering like a ship without a rudder, and ceased playing there was a period where I didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t help but believe that there are probably other players experiencing the same thing. There are so many players who’ve, as it happens and they do not know why. They are guys that are bright and they do not understand they’re coping with depression or why focus can’t be maintained by them or have mood swings.
Exactly what are a few of the indications of post-concussion syndrome like and just how do you cope with them?
You can find times when I am a little forgetful and quite frankly that’s the inclination affect your union, particularly when your spouse does not understand. Not enough sleep because your mind is just racing. Lack of judgment and lack of emotion. Because attempting to filter that noise may bring on a headache, I’ve to guard myself against areas where there are loud noise or bright lights. I’ve learned to manage my life to some stage where it is pretty regular.
Ever try medication? You appear to take a more natural method of handling depression and any symptoms of PCS.
I have never been on drugs. I’ve a diagnosis and so I govern myself whereas a number of other individuals who don’t have an identification. Post-concussion syndrome is manageable but it is something you have to pay attention to. I have constantly tried to track what was going on with me. After I get up in the morning I attempt to proceed to the gym, work on my cardiovascular system to make sure that my blood is circulating throughout my body and I try to work out. I need to eat healthy. While I get up, I Will ride to the gym with my window open just to inhale the air and get heavy breaths of oxygen. For me personally, I surely recognize how important it’s to simply breathe and take in that oxygen. The oxygen goes into my blood stream, and into my lungs, and throughout my body. It’s just little things like that you do not take for granted. Whether it’s Dr. Daniel Amen or the doctor I interact with in Hilton Head, they are staunch believers in hyperbaric treatment. I have access to hyperbarictherapy in South Carolina – a clinic in Hilton Head. Hyperbaric therapy is simply oxygen treatment of regenerating cells. When you have damaged cells or dead cells in the brain it only stands to reason that when you experience hyperbaric treatment those cells can be replaced through that treatment. I believe the NFL, if they were clever, would get involved with something like this.