x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Limit the damage NFL players do off the field through care and attention

Athletes are not immune to societal pressures at large where incidents of domestic violence and vehicle accidents are all too common.

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2012 file photo, Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Jovan Belcher (59) gestures at the line of scrimmage during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers in Kansas City, Mo. Police say Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend early Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo., then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File) *** Local Caption *** Chiefs Player Shooting Football.JPEG-01cfe.jpg
FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2012 file photo, Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Jovan Belcher (59) gestures at the line of scrimmage during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers in Kansas City, Mo. Police say Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend early Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo., then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File) *** Local Caption *** Chiefs Player Shooting Football.JPEG-01cfe.jpg

If bad things happen in threes, we should all be holding our breath.

The past two NFL weekends have unfolded under a cloud, with the suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, after he killed his girlfriend, and the death of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown when a car driven by drunk teammate Josh Brent crashed.

How shocking it seems that such fates would befall highly successful, richly compensated young men with accessible support systems at their disposal.

Then again, pro athletes are not immune to societal pressures at large where incidents of domestic violence and vehicle accidents caused by impairment are all too common.

The most frequent causes of death among teenagers and young adults in high-income nations, by reckoning of the World Health Organisation, are "road traffic" and self-inflicted injuries. (Next is "interpersonal violence," the category that applies to the mother of Belcher's infant child.)

What prompted Belcher's rash decision might never be known. As for Brent's, these players cannot seem to not only resist the lure of Friday night partying but seeking a ride home provided by the players union, which is just a phone call away.

Perhaps commissioner Roger Goodell ought to declare a "Hug Your Player" week. These guys inflict pain and damage on themselves and each other enough in the games. May their down time be spent healing, not hurting more.