Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Improve and enjoy the quality of your life!

In the wake of the passing of Nelson Mandela many people will remember that he was the first Black President of South Africa, others will remember that he won a Nobel Peace Prize while most people will remember that he spent 27 years of a life sentence in prison for fighting against the apartheid policies of the South African Government. I will remember all of those things about the man. One of the tidbits about his life that will stand out for me was a comment made by Ahmed Kathrada, a noted anti-apartheid activist who served alongside Mr. Mandela while in prison on Robben Island. During a memorial service Mr. Kathrada indicated that many of the men he and Mr. Mandela served with in prison smoked cigarettes and failed to take care of their physical well-being by not exercising.  He recalled that Mr. Mandela was a tall, strong and healthy man. Before prison, he had been a boxer but while in prison he stretched and exercised every morning.

Mandela was a prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel to break rocks and stone when others couldn't do so. Looking at hard labor for many years Nelson Mandela had the discipline to stretch and exercise every morning even in a very small prison cell. Many of those men who smoked and didn’t exercise suffered from many debilitating ailments and died early deaths. Could exercise have been a reason for Mr. Mandela’s longevity to reach the age of 95? Possibly or at least I would like to think that would be the case.

As we enter a New Year, as always I will take time to look back at the last 12 months and reflect on loved ones, family members, friends and people of influence we all know who did not make it to this New Year of 2014. I will then look forward. With another New Year comes the tradition of making resolutions in hopes of being better individuals and improving our lives by doing things like shedding excess weight or reducing bad habits starting over or starting fresh with a brand new 365 day to work with.

We all do this to some degree or another resolving to do better especially in regard to our healthcare. As I remember Nelson Mandela there will be many aspects of his life that will influence me to be more forgiving of people who may have wronged me in some way but more importantly his legacy will encourage me to follow his example to stretch and exercise every morning regardless of where I am or how busy I get to benefit my health. I may not live to the age of 95 years old as Mr. Mandela but I hope to live a healthy quality of life for the time I have remaining.    

Happy New Year!!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

'League of Denial' - Thanks Frontline!

Recently the television network PBS and the investigative news program Frontline aired a documentary on the concussion issue of football in general and the National Football League more specifically. I would like to encourage everyone, whether you are a football fan or not, to watch “League of Denial” an in-depth look into what the League knew about concussions and when did they know about the possible long term effects of concussions on former players like Pittsburgh Steelers player Mike Webster. More than 15 months in development the documentary was originally a collaborative partnership between ESPN and PBS and was timed to be broadcasted in the shadow of a potentially damaging lawsuit by almost 4,500 former players against the NFL.

 I played a role in the project not only being on camera sharing my own personal experiences as a linebacker playing football but also by helping PBS promote the project with their supporters, the media those in the retired players community. The issue of concussions in football and the possible long term effects is one that is near and dear to my heart. Over the past two decades I have attempted to bring that subject matter into the mainstream discussions of sports related topics especially in regard to former football players who have played and are now experiencing the lingering effects of concussions they sustained and to alert parents of the possible dangers for young players prior to taking the field to play football.

Over the years, in my efforts to speak out loud on concussion, I have grown to understand that it was not always politically correct to speak critically of a sport I made my living from for many years. Fortunately (or unfortunately) as a former Captain of the New York Football Giants I have never been apprehensive to speak of what I perceive to be the truth. Whether I had to go before the New York media and be accountable about how my teams played (back in the day) or today, to speak of the concussions I gave and received as a result of playing football as well as the lingering effects of those concussions later in life, this was one of those issues that I had no problem discussing in any venue.

Having talked about this issue for years to a variety of sources it was important to use the brand of a respected award winning journalistic program like Frontline to continue to share my feelings on a subject that so few people seem to understand. The opportunity to contribute to the documentary gave me a voice to continue to speak for many who played football on all levels but no longer have a voice. That project itself gave my voice a larger platform to speak of what I know for certain about concussions. It was not my intent to use that platform to criticize or knock the sport of football. Instead, it was my intent to use my voice to share my story, give my opinion and allow the viewer to make an “informed” decision regarding their own children playing a sport where the risk of sustaining a neurological injury is very real and much like playing “Russian Roulette.”

 Through the “League of Denial” documentary, Congressional hearings from several years ago and widespread information from various media sources, the world now knows that many young men who played football professionally, in college and in high school may have sustained concussions that could or have led to mild or serious neurological issues later in life.

We all should now know that not only is there a physical risk of playing football (injuring a knee, ankle, hip, etc…) but there is also a neurological risk that parents and players may have never thought about before but must now take into consideration to play the sport they love. Many viewers from around the country who watched the “League of Denial” documentary have contacted me to say “Thank You” for participating in this project and one went so far as to say “You are on the right side of science”. That was a comment that caught me off guard but was much appreciated. My last year playing football was 25 years ago but I know that even though I am very far removed from the playing field my body understands the lingering effects of what took place a long time ago; and fortunately I didn’t have to donate my brain to understand that science!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Harry Carson Featured in PBS Documentary - "League of Denial" Focusing on Sports Concussions

Meridian Neuroscience celebrity spokesperson and NFL great Harry Carson is featured in this controversial documentary on sports concussions, which aired October 2013 on PBS -- "League of Denial"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Take Time for Yourself!

Many of you know by now that I am always talking about moving, staying active and exercising. You might also know that with my last blog entry I shared that I would be spending time with my grandchildren “My Puddin” and “My Package.” Well, the mission has been accomplished. Had the grandchildren for more than a month and loved every second of being with them but it is time for a vacation. Have to admit, my “Package” (Kellen age 3) wore me out! This comes from a man who is constantly moving and doing something. There comes a point even in my life when I feel a need to stop, sit back, relax and do nothing.  I am one who is up early in the morning, I get my latte and try to get to the gym and get some kind of cardio training and then dive into whatever task or project I need to attend to. Often times I work around the clock until I’m totally spent and exhausted. My friends and family know that the word “vacation” is foreign to me, but I feel a need to give in to the concept.

When I played football, the coaches had an expression “Work hard, get a break!” In other words they wanted the maximum effort out of the players during training camp practice sessions. In exchange for us as players giving that effort we got a welcome break to regroup, catch our collective breaths to re-energize our bodies to get through what was left of the remaining practice period.  As I've gone through the first half of the year I’ve worked hard. Now it’s time to get a break! While my break won’t be long I am going to spend a few days doing absolutely nothing physically. I am going to go to bed early and try my best to sleep late. During the course of my break or personal vacation, I am not going to watch television nor listen to the radio, I am not going to check snail mail, email, text messages or answer the phone. I am going to sit on a beach or on the bank of a river to listen to the waves of water crash onto the shore. I am going to do my best to soak up some sunshine and clear my mind of everything.

As much as we need to take care of our bodies physically, we also need to manage our mental well-being. We all need to “dial back” the stress level we subject ourselves to on a daily basis. Stress in and of itself can have a profound impact in our physical well-being. On a higher level heart attacks and strokes and on a lower level headaches, muscle spasms among so many others physical symptoms can take a tremendous toll on the human body when we become overwhelmed and fatigued.

I want to encourage everyone that if you’ve worked hard, it might be time to take your break. You be the judge of the length of that break to unwind mentally. It could be 2 weeks, a week, a couple of days or a few hours. You can take a trip to the shore or stay in your yard take time to relax, clear your mind, eliminate or reduce your level of stress and regroup to move forward with renewed energy and a clearer mind.

Take time for YOU!!!         

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Me & My Little People

I generally look forward to the summer months but I am even more excited about this summer especially the month of July. People who know me know that family is first and foremost to me and while I love being with my kids who are all grown up and have their own lives now. I really love being a “Pop Pop”(Grandfather) with my two “little people”(Grandchildren) Kellen age 3 and Jamison age 7. (I made a deal with my daughter that regardless of how old I am or get I never wanted to be referred to as “Grandfather”. My attitude is, no matter how old I get I will always be much too young to be a “G” Father.) My “Puddin” and my “Package” (as I call them) are the joy of my life right now so I consider it my prerogative and duty to spoil them whenever I have them. So, for almost the entire month of July my wife and I will have them with us to eat whatever they want and basically do whatever they want to do (within limits).

While they are only 3 and 7 years old they know that their “Pop Pop” is not about sitting still and doing nothing. What gets them excited is they know that every day we are together we are going to be doing something. We will go swimming, fishing, ride scooters, go to the zoo or a play, hit golf balls with their golf clubs they got last Christmas (from “Pop Pop”).  They know that we will cut somersaults, jump rope and do backflips in the backyard. I know that when I work in the yard they will want to help in any way they can. Once or twice while we are together we will go to the county run riding stable to ride their favorite pony that they think is their pony but isn’t. And I know they will want to go for an occasional walk through my neighborhood or at a park.

What I love about my “Little People” is their energy and their desire to move and stay active. They will have their quiet time where they will either take a nap or read a book but they know that when they are with us there is no such thing as sit and be quiet! They love to be active and I really love that about them.  When I look at them I see how their mother and father have given them the freedom to be themselves and have encouraged them to be active. Interestingly their mother played softball and was active as she was growing up and continues to live an active lifestyle by going to the gym even after working a full day. She makes it a point to take My “Puddin” and My “Package” with her. They have the opportunity to play with other kids of their age while their parents work out.

I would like to think that my daughter, (their mother) learned a little something from me (her father) about fitness and exercise as she was growing. I have always tried to maintain my fitness by including my children not necessarily in working out or exercising with me, but just putting them in a position to see what I was doing when I was stretching, jumping rope, jogging at a local school’s track or just going for a walk.

When I look at and enjoy my “Little People” I see what I never saw as a child. I had no role models of fitness. Both my mother and father worked hard to support our family. They didn’t have time nor made time to work on their health and fitness. That is hopefully a legacy I can say I started by being an example for my daughter because she has passed that on to the “Puddin and the Package.”

While I will be in my glory with a 7 and 3 year old for almost a month, I just hope I am able to keep up with their overabundance of energy and stamina. If not they will have set the bar for their “Pop Pop” to strive for once they leave.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On My Honor!

Recently I was asked by a friend to write a letter of commendation for his son who is achieving the rank of Eagle as a Boy Scout. I agreed to do so to honor his son who has persevered through much and has fulfilled all of the requirements to reach that elite status of Scouting. I was a Boy Scout a very long time ago but I only reached the rank of First Class. I know many who read this article may have either been a Boy Scout, a Cub Scout or a Girl Scout and may be able to understand and identify with what I am going to say.

In regard to my own personal experiences as a Boy Scout there are many lessons I learned as a Scout that I carry with me even to this day. In constructing the letter I went to the Boy Scout website to re-familiarize myself with things I may have forgotten over the years. As I began reading the Scout’s Oath (or Promise) a time in my youth began to come back to me.

On my Honor, I will do my best.
To do my duty to God and my Country
And to obey the Scout Law.
To help others at all times
To keep myself physically strong,
Mentally awake and morally straight.

Being mentally awake and morally straight are very important qualities to have. I am not making light of those qualities but the phrase “To keep myself physically strong” jumped out at me as a commitment I made to myself taking that pledge as a young man. That pledge has stuck with me since my childhood. I will be the first to admit that being an athlete and former football player have influenced me tremendously in regard to my awareness of fitness but I cannot help but think that deep in the back of my mind resonates that promise from Scouting “to keep myself physically strong”.

If you have ever been a Girl or Boy Scout on any level, fitness has been one of the key components of being a member of those organizations. If you are a parent or grandparent and have been in those organizations you should know the benefits of living an active lifestyle like those of a Scout by going on long hikes, swimming, boating or just being active outdoors. I am not trying to convince you to have your kids join the Scouts but I would strongly encourage you to get your children and grandchildren involved with group programs or individually to move, engage in running or taking part in activities inside but preferably outside to strengthen their muscles and develop coordination. It is not necessarily the muscular development in the activities that is most important but the strengthening of vital organs such as the heart and lungs which is incidental to muscular or cardio training that is most essential.

The habit of taking a good long walk several times a week when possible is a valuable asset for getting the body properly trained for life. Keeping our bodies strong not only affect heart and lung health but also aids tremendously in keeping the brain alert and healthy with vital oxygen distribution through increased blood flow throughout the body.

Sometimes there is much that can be learned from a simple request like writing a letter to re-connect you to something that was so important in the overall themes of our life. Reconnecting with those Scout roots also tells me:

Once a Scout, always a Scout!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Staying on Point….

In the past year I've talked about exercising and taking ownership of our own lives to live a better quality of life by being healthy. While I will always feel strongly about health and wellness I can never forget that my expertise and my relationship with Meridian Neuroscience is based largely on my experiences with sports related concussions.

For many years now I've been very open and willing to talk about the issue of sports concussions. I was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome in 1990, two years after my career ended as a linebacker with the New York Football Giants.  During my 13 years playing with the Giants I realized something was going on that I couldn't quite put my finger on but I just knew something was happening with my body internally. It wasn't until I left football that I was finally diagnosed. Over the years I have learned to manage my life to live a relatively "normal" life to avoid things like headaches by recognizing "trigger" that could be a prelude to a migraine. Since my diagnosis I've sat on panels with some of the foremost authorities on concussions and traumatic brain injuries. I've read extensively on concussions or brain injury related issues but more importantly I've listened to my own body and paid very close attention to what my body has gone through as a result of giving and receiving concussions on the football field.

What is now a "hot button" topic for everyone including the President of the United States is a subject I talked about when it wasn't politically correct for a former NFL Player to talk so openly about 20 years ago. I recognized when I was diagnosed that if I was having neurological issues having played football and sustaining concussions there were probably many other current and former football players dealing with the same issues. I was right on that point as more than 5000 former players have so far joined a class action suit against the NFL in regard to concussion.

As the issues of concussions and traumatic brain injuries have evolved, not only are football players on all levels affected but the issues are also felt in girl’s soccer, wresting, lacrosse, ice hockey and even NASCAR racing. What most people fail to realize is traumatic brain injury is the number one injury that many of our soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan are dealing with.

With the suicides of several athletes affected by head trauma, a greater awareness has been placed on concussions in sports. And even with much research that has been done on deceased athletes with confirmations of brain damage there are still doubters of the causes of concussions having residual long term effects on athletes after the cheering stops.

My mission as one who intimately understands brain injuries in sports is real and the long term effects are very very real I look forward to sharing my experiences with all who are interested in Ocean and Monmouth Counties later this year as Meridian Neuroscience and I team up to bring a greater awareness of concussions to those communities. As we move forward in 2013 I will continue to write on good health and wellness but my main goal is to stay on point on the issue I feel continuously needs to be discussed with athletes and parents of children who want to play contact sports.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Love Yourself - Be Healthy....

Since I've been producing these monthly blog entries I've tried to tie-in some kind of significance of the month. One of the most relevant occurrences during the month of February is St. Valentine's Day. February 14th is the one day we set aside to publicly express our love and affection to those we love and adore. Most men 'get it' or understand that if there is not at least some acknowledgement of romance to their 'significant other' they will pay a sometimes hefty price that might ruin their week or at least their day. Much attention might be focused on buying flowers, candy or jewelry for others and while that could be a good thing, the thought of loving ourselves first could be lost. I love my wife, I love my children and grandchildren and I love what I do in life, but I know that the best gift I can give those I love is a healthy me! My early mornings doing cardiovascular exercises instead of getting an extra hour of sleep or having a good salad or a portion of salmon for dinner along with not smoking helps me maintain a pretty good balance health-wise for myself but it allows me to be the best I can be for my loved ones.

This is just my opinion but I honestly feel that many of us fail to love ourselves appropriately. We devote much time to our jobs, to our children, our spouses or even how our favorite sports team is doing that we don’t take time to love ourselves.  As a result, many of us suffer illnesses and ailments like hypertension and diabetes that can avoided. Over the past year I’ve talked or at least tried to talk about living a healthy lifestyle that included exercise and eating healthy. Exercising and eating in moderation could do us all a world of good in losing a few pounds and opening some of those clogged arteries, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to help us feel better physically.

Climbing the corporate ladder or giving our families the resources to thrive is good but the very best gift we can give to those we love is the gift of good health to ourselves. In doing so we will be able to love and be loved in return longer and stronger than we understand or could appreciate.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What is your motivation…?

I'd like to welcome you to 2013. I say this with a much different understanding and appreciation for life than I have in the past.  As we enter a new year I look back on 2012 with sad memories. On January 2nd of 2012 I lost my brother who was only 4 years older than me. Of my family unit of 3 girls and 3 boys I am the only brother left with my oldest brother having passed in 2004. It does not go over my head that I am the last brother for my three sisters.

Several weeks after losing my brother my family lost my father in law to a sudden heart attack. My brother, in his own way was a mentor and I loved him dearly. My father in law as well was a man I respected tremendously. So, when I look at the New Year I do so with the sorrow of commemorating the one year anniversary of those men my family have lost.  I look forward to living my life with as much 'gusto' and passion as I can with a focus on the next generation of young people in my family.

One of the things I appreciate in having this forum with Meridian is the platform to share my personal thoughts, insights and personal experiences. In sharing my personal experiences I am not trying to preach to anyone, instead I am hoping to inspire anyone who takes a few minutes to read my monthly entries.

Of the men in my family I am probably the only one who consciously tried to practice an active lifestyle from my youth into my adulthood. Okay, staying in shape to have played football has had a significant role in my physical well-being but since those playing days I've tried to be diligent about maintaining my health.

To do anything worthwhile most people need to be motivated to some extent to reach the goals they are looking to achieve. It's no different with me; often times I need a little motivation to take that first step toward reaching goals I set. While personally I understand the advantage of exercise and diet to maintain good health, my ultimate motivation is to be a living example for my children, my grand-children (For the record, I am much too young to be a 'Pop Pop') and all my nieces and nephews. I want to show them that exercise is not solely for the young but for everyone regardless of age.

I'm not going anywhere any time soon. But when I do I hope I led by example by leaving a legacy of wellness and fitness for those coming after me to emulate.  If so that just could be the best gift to leave my family.

What is your motivation in 2013?