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An Open Letter to Pablo Mastroeni

May 10, 2012 | 2:07 pm No comments
By Shaun Schafer

May 10, 2012

Dear Pablo,

Next week will mark the six weeks that you were going to be out with concussion symptoms prior to re-evaluation from the medical staff. Hopefully the headaches and sleepless nights that haunted you after the March 10 season opener are gone.

Even if they are gone and you come through the medical evaluation with flying colors, your decision should be a simple one. Now is the time to retire.

Seriously, what do you have left to prove as a player? World Cups. Check. MLS Cup. Check. All-Star. Check. Team MVP. Check. Face of a franchise. Check. Every meaningful Colorado Rapids endurance record. Check. Remaking yourself to prolong your career. Check.

What more do you want? You probably want to keep playing as long as you can, but it is time to realize that the risks you are taking are much greater. You are no longer looking at the previous 35 years of your life. You are now gambling on the next 50 years.

A Scary Loss: I lost a day and a half to a concussion when I was 21. I was filling in at goalkeeper. I went out for a ball and my chin was met in midair by the back of a forward’s head. The next thing I knew, I was on my back looking up at concerned faces.

Somehow, I finished the game. I drove home. I think I slept. I got up and went through the next day. Two days later, I was foggy and fighting headaches. I couldn’t remember what I had done since the game. People could tell me what I had done, but I couldn’t remember it. I went to see a doctor. He said I had a concussion. He wrote some script and made me promise to take it easy. I tried.

The cup shines like the sun on a cold Toronto night as team captain Pablo Mastroeni celebrates the team's MLS Cup victory in 2010. (Photograph by Jessica Taves/ColoradoSoccerNow.com)

That incident, and a similar one a few years earlier also on a soccer field, are the only items I can add to the discussion on concussions. I can’t know what you are going through, but I do know that it scares me when I think about the time I lost and the possibility of losing more days in the future.

Ultimately, all we have are our minds and memories. As you undoubtedly know from Taylor Twellman’s experience, concussions can leave you with permanent brain damage. Concussions can rewire your mind. They can make you into someone you are not.

You are now making a decision on the rest of your life. You are making a decision for you and your family. This is a decision for you and the relationship you will have with your children for the rest of their lives.

Let me make it a little easier.

Thank You: Thank you for never quitting on the field. Thank you for leading by example. Thank you for sacrificing your body for something concrete, a win, and something ephemeral, a sense of teamwork.

Thank you for everything you did on the way to MLS Cup 2010. (Thank you, thank you, thank you on that one.) Thank you for giving the U.S. Men’s National Team some midfield grit. Thank you for showing us that there is life after 35 for midfielders.

Thank you for taking the time to consider your future after suffering post-concussion headaches. Thank you for your sleepless nights.

Thank you for deciding to retire.

All right, that last one is premature, but I think you know it is time. No matter what you have accomplished or how much you love the game, once you start talking about traumatic brain injury, it’s time to hang up your cleats.

Officially, I have suffered one diagnosed concussion and one probable concussion. Both came on soccer fields. I would not wish that pain on anyone, much less a player I respect and a person I admire.

Thank you,

Shaun Schafer
Editor and Publisher of ColoradoSoccerNow.com

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