I want to talk about a man that had a great influence on me as an athlete and a man: Fred “Dr Squat” Hatfield PhD. At the conclusion of my rookie NFL season (an unremarkable stretch in Cincinnati the Bengals) I headed west to Los Angeles at the invitation of my friend Perry Rosen. My close friend, a training partner from my Long Island days (Rab’s Gym in Lynbrook), Perry had made the move west to pursue his dream of becoming a Hollywood star. It was an easy decision to accept his invitation to join him and spend my NFL off-season in balmy LA. When my season ended I stowed my striped orange helmet and headed directly east to Reseda, CA. Although I often worked out with Perry, who was reasonably strong at 215 pounds, I was in need of a training partner who could challenge me both physically and mentally. Not long after I arrived in “The Valley” (The movie Valley Girls with Nicholas Cage was the big movie that summer) I began dating a young lady who said “There’s a really strong man that works in my dad’s office and you totally have to meet him; he’s really smart and you two will hit it off!” Turns out my friend Jill’s dad worked for Joe Weider at his corporate headquarters in Woodland Hills, CA. Jill’s dad was in sales but friendly with one of Weider’s senior directors and sports science director Dr. Fred Hatfield. I had certainly heard of Dr. Squat and jumped at the chance to meet him and just as Jill had predicted Fred and I became fast friends. Before long Fred invited me to workout with him in his garage gym and that’s when it started to get interesting.
There is no denying that Fred was powerfully built especially when viewed from the back; neck to a hamstrings Fred’s muscularity was incredibly thick and ropey. His lumbar paraspinals were so powerfully developed they created an appearance of having slabs of steak strapped on either side of his spinal column. Broad shoulders and thick pec too. His 250 pound body was compressed, with single digit body fat, on to just 5’6″. Think fire plug with traps. A tick more than a foot shorter than me but just 30 pounds lighter.
I was a good lifter, by football player standards, but was looking to improve myself as a football player and athlete and I know strength was a crucially important athletic quality. At the time I was squatting around 585. I realize that many reading his have never training the squat to the standards of high level powerlifters and football players so permit me to define the all important depth of the squat as is the standard; the crease of the hip passes BELOW the crease of the knee. Yep – it’s way down there where gravity is nasty, your chest is slammed into your knees and leverages are compromised. I held weightlifting records when I was at the University of Maryland and was among the stronger Bengals players. Incredibly Fred had me beat in the squat by 400 – not 40 – but 400 pounds! My first thought was Holy Crap, what am I doing training with this guy. My second thought was to align myself with Fred, pay close attention to everything he said and did and work as hard as I could. He was my chance to spend an off season getting stronger and develop the most important asset in sport – power!
I spent three off-season’s training with Fred in his garage gym along with various athletes, amateur and professional, who would drop by to workout of just shoot the baloney. There was nothing fancy about the gym; a converted three car garage who’s dominant feature was an industrial strength power rack. Dumbbells ran in pairs up to 150 lbs. medicine balls, pull-up bar etc. Notable pieces of equipment included a “safety squat bar”, common in serious training gyms today but revolutionary in the 80’s. Many don’t know this but it was Fred who popularized the SSB when he began training with it in the the 70’s. Fred and I used it quite a bit in the 80’s. Notable too were the special bars and plates necessitated by the poundages Fred squatted. I’ll explain; the standard weightlifting bars in gyms across the world are designed and built to accommodate a load of 650-800 pounds. Load the bar with plates totaling more than that amount and the bar fails (bends) rendering it unusable. Yet reasonably new bars never bend. Here’s why; most obviously, there are few mighty enough to require their bar be loaded to 800 pounds and secondly the collars of the bar fill to horizontal capacity with 45 pound plates in effect “maxing out” the bar. Hence the need for the specialized bars and plates in Fred’s gym. The first order of business are bars, made of freakishly strong iron, that can accommodate 1,200 pounds. Secondly Fred had a stash of rare 100 pound plates – heavier than manhole covers and beastly to manage. These were the metaphorical hammer and chisel of super strength training employed buy only the strongest on the planet. Mind you this was a decade before “gear” (metal strut reenforced suits that permit one, while wearing it, to squat 200-300 pounds more than they could wearing a cotton single worn by Fred and the powerlifters of the day) was introduced to the sport of powerlifting – hastening its spiraling popularity.
I made great progress in all my lifts; in the NFL they test what I call the NFL Total: Bench Press, Power Clean and Full Squat. My NFL Total PR’s were: Bench 500, Clean 365, Squat 665. Of course the training led to improvements in my game, after all the reason I was training was ultimately to be a better NFL defensive lineman. The power I added while working with Fred led to increased “pop” at the point of contact ability to impose upper-body violence on my opponent. My game improved and importantly “I” improved; as an athlete, and a man. Those summers, Dr. Squat and me in Fred’s Gym were special times. Early on I asked Fred if had a would turn the stereo on to which said “don’t have one … I train to the music in my head”. Okey-dokie, no music was fine with me, besides the conversation was so power – mostly Fred talking and me listening – that music would only have mucked it up. Conversation, heavy training, followed by more conversation and seventy-five minutes later when the session was over Fred would fire up a Kool and kick back in his easy chair. Those were the days. Dr. Squat and me. PK
The inherent on-field violence of the NFL demands that commissioner Goodell be exactingly diligent in matters of off-field violence.
The swift action of the Baltimore Ravens in terminating their star running back Ray Rice upon the release of security video showing him punching his then fiancé in February was just and appropriate. As a former player I’ve been following this case with personal interest, in particular I wondered what penalty would be meted out by the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The initial two game suspension imposed by commissioner Goodell was widely criticized by fans and media as too light. I too thought that a two game penalty was insufficient given the reports and testimony I read. Now that the video has been seen by virtually every NFL fan plus millions uninterested inn professional football, a tidal wave of indignation has formed. This is not a surprise. It’s one thing to read about a violent act, but to see violence of this level perpetrated on a woman, is to most a horrifying site.
The question that is burning in my mind: What was Goodell thinking when he failed (or lied about) to review the security tape of what happened inside the elevator with Rice and his fiancé? Roger Goodell, who coined the term “protect the shield” (as in NFL logo) has failed all of us who hold what the NFL shield stands to near and dear to our hearts. The inherent on-field violence of the NFL demands that commissioner Goodell be exactingly diligent in matters of off-field violence.
The painful drama of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident should act as a cautionary tale for current and aspiring NFL players and coaches serving as a reminder that participating in NFL games is a great privilege. For now and perhaps forever that privilege, once bestowed upon Ray Rice, is gone. Let us keep forgiveness in our hearts when we think of Ray and his now wife Janay and be mindful our own blessings. PK
With so many headlines recently about concussions and the NFL, check out this trailer for a new documentary series from GQ Magazine, Casualties of the Gridiron. It is an incredibly honest look at the struggles retired players face, their road to recovery and the hope and redemption that now lies ahead, focusing on the work of P.A.S.T, http://www.pastpain.com a team of medical specialists dedicated to helping retired player. I am a patient of this group of outstanding physicians and along with their Director Jennifer Smith they have positively impacted the lives of many retired professional athletes – me included. Please check out the this sneak peak of the trailer and share with your friends. The series premiers November 18th.
The Chiefs defeated the Texans and remain undefeated with a record of 7-0. I readily acknowledge the achievement of winning seven games in a row but caution Chiefs fans that the NFL season is long and the competition will get tougher. The reality is that the combined record of Chiefs opponents in 14-33 and the Chiefs will continue to benefit from an easy schedule next week when they play the Cleveland Browns (3-4). I’m bullish on the Chiefs – who isn’t – yet cautiously optimistic about how they will fair against winning teams. PK
I was recently invited to talk football and Hollywood on The Couch Potato Show with my old friend and teammate Walter “Shake and Bake” Davies and the original Couch Potato Sonny Clark. We had fun talking about High School, College and NFL football as well as my work with Clint Eastwood, Patrick, Burt Reynolds and others. Give this show a listen and friend Sonny here https://www.facebook.com/thecouchpoato Click here to here the show.
As the 2013 NFL season begins I reflect on what playing in our nations greatest sports league meant to me. Foremost lining up on Sundays on an National Football League team gridiron was a great honor. It been said many times but everyone would do it for free – most would pay for the privilege. The fraternity of those who have played on Sundays is literally one tenth the number of brain surgeons in the US. An elite group to be sure and if you tally the number of players that played long enough to earn a pension that number of players, about 20,000 is halved.
People often ask me if I think the game has changed in the quarter century since I retired, and though it has been righteously fine tuned to amongst many things; produce more scoring, reduce concussive injury etc it remains inherently the same. Thankfully, blessedly the bones of the NFL game are intact and incredibly – it’s safer than before.
To one and all I say enjoy the season as it unfolds – embrace it for it speaks to the good of a nation.
I’ve been through this ‘heart health screen’ and conversed with Dr. Archie Roberts who is an exceptional man, committed to helping former NFL players. PK
For N.F.L. Players, Another Risk: Heart Disease
PHILADELPHIA — Eighteen years after his last football game, Brad Quast has a stack of medical records describing the devastating effects of a brief career of very hard knocks: badly injured knees, the remnants of a serious neck injury sustained while playing in college and enough concussive damage to have caused short-term memory loss.
Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times
Brad Quast, 42, once a Jets draft pick, was told that his heart was healthy enough but that he should alter his exercise and diet.
But his physiological reality did not truly hit home until the day his 14-year-old son wavered on playing high school football and made his father the basis of his apprehension.
“I used to play some basketball and try to walk around the golf course,” Quast said. “Zach saw me deteriorate. He said, ‘Dad, you can’t run anymore.’ ”
Not good, they both knew, for a once superfit man who is only 42.
A star linebacker at Iowa, Quast was the Jets’ 10th-round draft pick in 1990 but was released that year without playing a game. After a stint with Barcelona in the World League of American Football, which is now defunct, he signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992, tore up his knee in a preseason game and never played again.
Injured or inactive the entire time he was affiliated with theN.F.L., Quast did not qualify for a league pension, but he did require several operations that have sheared his knees of cartilage — “bone on bone,” he said. He cannot run, but Quast signed up quickly for a free cardiovascular screening for retired N.F.L. players in late September at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at the Hospital of theUniversity of Pennsylvania near his home in southern New Jersey.
“I don’t want to be one of those guys you pick up the paper and read about,” he said, referring to news reports of young former professional football players dying of heart attacks.
Quast was shaken in 2004 when the Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White, whom he got to know with the Eagles,died of cardiac arrhythmia at 43. “He was larger than life,” Quast said. “When that happens to a guy like him, it makes you wonder if we’re all a piece of meat.”
The cardiovascular screening program for retired N.F.L. players was created in 2003 by a retired New Jersey heart surgeon, Dr. Arthur Roberts, and was originally financed by the players union and private donations. The program has since expanded and moved under an umbrella group called the N.F.L. Player Care Foundation, which includes the union, the league, a player alumni group and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“The danger of concussions has exploded as a national issue because it has such a powerful effect on society,” Roberts said. “Our kids play sports and suffer concussions, not just gladiators playing professional football. But the reality is that cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of men.”
Since May, Norman Hand, who played 10 N.F.L. seasons as a 300-plus-pound defensive tackle, has died of heart disease at 37; Harry Galbreath, a nine-year N.F.L. guard, has died of a heart attack at 45; and Jack Tatum, who had diabetes, has died of heart failureat 61.
There have been other deaths of retired players this year and in past years, occasionally coming in flurries.
Although some studies have shown retired N.F.L. players to have higher rates of indicators for cardiovascular disease like hypertension and artery-clogging plaque, experts say no hard data suggest that N.F.L. players over all are at greater risk of dying younger of heart disease than men of corresponding size and health in the general population. But most football players are recognizable names, especially to one another, and each death can heighten their fear.
“It’s all very scary to read about these guys,” said Mike Quick, 51, a standout receiver for Philadelphia from 1982 to 1990, who was one of 45 former players screened in September. A broadcaster for the Eagles, Quick arrived early for the Saturday morning screening and later rushed to catch a flight to Jacksonville, Fla., where Philadelphia played the next day.
“The things we put our bodies through, they just aren’t meant to do,” said Quick, who learned of the free screenings through the union.
As an African-American, Quick worries because general-population studies have shown higher risk of heart disease for black men, although most experts studying heart disease in football say the drastic increase in linemen’s weight poses the gravest health threat.
Dr. Sherry Baron, the coordinator for priority populations and health disparities at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is updating her 1994 study that showed clear disparities across field positions. In a telephone interview, she said it was logical to assume that the size and speed of 21st-century players, believed to have created a more violent game that has intensified the neurological debate, have also elevated the dangers of cardiovascular disease by increasing the risk of debilitating injury that can limit postcareer activity, as in Quast’s case.
But an examination of 201 player screenings from Roberts’s program in 2006 and 2007 by Dr. R. Todd Hurst of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., found ailments in retired players of all sizes that harden arteries and can increase the risk of stroke and death by up to four times. That puts them in the same risk category as obese, nonathletic men.
Hurst added that factors including genetics, possible steroid use (which he called “the elephant in the room”) and poor dietary habits “make it a real challenge for us as scientists to figure out where these guys fit to match them with others.”
“Ultimately,” he added, “it is not playing in the N.F.L. that increases the risk; it’s what happens after they retire.”
Roberts’s team — which includes several of his relatives and medical volunteers — has worked in conjunction with one headed by Dr. Jeffrey Boone of the Boone Heart Institutein Denver to screen almost 2,000 retired players. But Roberts acknowledged that a majority of about 16,000 retirees with at least one year of N.F.L. service remained elusively at risk.
“You could make the argument that the ones who need this most are not the ones who generally show up,” he said, expressing some frustration.
Roberts spent two years on the Cleveland Browns’ taxi squad while attending medical school at Case Western Reserve. In 1967, he signed with the Miami Dolphins, then in the American Football League. In the only game of his career, he completed 5 of 11 passes in a lopsided loss to Kansas City. He quit football after that season and eventually became a heart surgeon, performing thousands of operations until he had a stroke at 58 that ended his surgeon’s career.
“The doctor wasn’t listening to the advice he was giving his patients,” Roberts said. “I neglected regular exams and follow-ups that I insisted my patients get. I wasn’t exercising, eating right. I should have known better. But when I had my stroke, it started a new phase of my life.”
He came to believe that his sense of invulnerability had much to do with his athletic past. That thought helped him hatch the idea for the nonprofit Living Heart Foundation, which he initially dedicated to fighting sudden cardiac death in high school, college and professional athletes. Soon after, he focused on N.F.L. players, active and retired, hoping to help them avoid the mistakes he had made.
“I feel as if all of these guys are a part of me,” Roberts said at the Philadelphia screening, where he played a largely supervisory role, greeting players, directing them to each station and making sure the traffic flowed freely. He was especially pleased when he recognized a player returning for a second or third screening.
A fair number of the screened players in the past were told they needed immediate care, Roberts said. He recalled at least two — one of whom he knew from his playing days — who soon had coronary bypass surgery.
“I score what we’ve done as far from perfect,” he said. “But after six years I do feel good about the effect we’ve had guiding players to procedures and helping them understand the risks. I believe we have saved some lives.”
Brad Quast, whose fringe career was not unlike Roberts’s but who finished in much worse shape, was screened for the first time after the conversation last summer with his son and with the encouragement of his wife, Cyndi, who had been worried about his health. Two years ago, when he participated in an N.F.L. study on concussions, she was home when the results arrived by mail.
“She opened them and it was, ‘Oh, God,’ ” Quast said. “Before that it was something we occasionally thought about. Now it was a medical person telling you about a lack of motor skills, short-term memory loss, fluid on the brain. They can talk about death rates not being higher, but what about the quality of life? I’ve already had to focus harder because of the memory loss, and I realized I could deal with this stuff later on or deal with it now. When I heard about the screenings, I thought this is also something I should do. Because of my knees, I think I’m at risk.”
The two-plus-hour physical included an echocardiogram, carotid artery ultrasound and blood work. The findings were given to each man’s personal physician.
During an exit interview with Dr. Lee Goldberg of the Penn Heart and Vascular Center, Quast was told that his arteries and ventricles were healthy enough. But the doctor advised him to substitute swimming for running and lectured him to avoid rich food. He also warned Quast that his weight, 248 pounds, was a little too high for his bone mass and 6-foot-1 frame.
At Iowa, Quast was all-Big Ten in 1988 and 1989. He tied a team record with a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown against Kansas State. But the injuries he sustained while trying to make the Jets and the Eagles aborted his N.F.L. dream. By 1993, he could no longer pass a physical.
“All of a sudden, you’re done at a young age — I was 25 — and you’re not the man anymore,” he said. “No one is picking up your drinks or paying for your gym. Guys’ girlfriends and wives are used to living a certain way, in a $700,000 house, and that can come to an abrupt end. Guys get scared; they get depressed.”
Several former players at the screening said the loss of an N.F.L. income could be exacerbated by the stripping of one’s athletic identity and self-worth. Depression combined with physical limitations can lead to bad eating habits, weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure and hypertension.
Kevin Guskiewicz of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina called this the snowball effect. His 2003 survey of 2,700 retired football players suggested links between osteoarthritis of the lower extremities and hypertension and coronary disease at rates higher than those in the general population.
To make the screening program more effective, Roberts has been advised by consulting cardiologists to focus it on those making the transition out of football to better educate them on the dangers of an unhealthy diet and failing to maintain muscle mass.
Quast earned a business degree at Iowa, easing his postfootball adjustment. He works as the director of sales for a company that provides outpatient pharmaceutical equipment. “I have a beautiful wife, three great kids and a heck of a lot to live for,“ he said.
Golf may be possible again some day, he said, with cartilage growth treatment or knee replacements, which would be covered by the Eagles in a medical settlement. He has changed a few habits, seldom eating after 6 p.m. and trying to avoid beer.
Yet with all that he has suffered and sacrificed, Quast and his family have not shunned football. His son Zach joined the high school team this fall after all. Quast helps coach a youth league in which his 10-year-old son, Shane, plays.
“So many of my buddies have steered their kids away,” he said. “But it’s out there, and it has such appeal.” He paused and added, “My wife, she’s been really good about it.”
This piece is written by a knowledgeable athlete, former NFL defensive back Sean Morey. PK
Change the Players’ Mentality
Sean Morey is an Executive Committee member of the N.F.L. Players Association and Co-Chairman of its Mackey-White Traumatic Brain Injury Committee. He was a Special Teams Pro Bowler, Super Bowl Champion and Peter King’s Special Teams Player of the Decade.
For the past decade, I’ve lived my dream of playing in the NFL. The game provides many opportunities to learn valuable lessons in humility, resiliency, leadership and teamwork. The rewards are great, but so can be the risks. Exposure to repetitive brain trauma, especially when given inadequate time to recover can increase the risk for developing neurodegenerative disease and cognitive dysfunction later in life. If you’re hurt, don’t hide it. Report it and take the necessary time to recover.
Football was initially intended to enrich the lives of student athletes. The game has since evolved. Players are bigger, faster and stronger, and the perceived innovation in helmet design has given our players a false sense of security. Although helmet manufacturers have made advances to reduce force to the brain, no helmet can prevent a concussion. We must educate our players so they can communicate effectively with their team medical staff. When a concussion occurs, there is a period of vulnerability where further impacts can kill injured brain cells that would have otherwise recovered. Proper diagnosis and management is the key to recovery.
We are making progressive changes based on scientific consensus in an effort to mitigate the potential long term cumulative effects of repetitive brain trauma. The physical nature of football doesn’t have to change drastically. We can protect football players and maintain the integrity of our game by teaching proper fundamentals, practicing smarter and making rule changes like the one made recently to limit helmet-to-helmet contact on defenseless players. We must also support independent research to identify the risk factors, determine prevalence and provide an effective means to diagnose, treat and prevent chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Professional football is a dangerous game. We’ve admired athletes who ignore injury and play through pain. However, playing through a concussion is no longer seen as a badge of honor; it’s reckless. It can prolong the time it takes to recover, shorten careers and compound problems transitioning into life after football. Our brain is the most vital organ in our body. We must remember NFL Players are also husbands and fathers, and will be contributing members of our communities for decades to come. We must all play an active role to change the culture in our game, to help make it safer for future generations.
If you’re hurt, don’t hide it. Report it and take the necessary time to recover.
Here is the latest on Brain Injury and Football players by Christopher Nowinski; advocate and founder of the Sports Legacy Group. PK
Better Rules Can Help
Christopher Nowinski, a former Harvard defensive tackle, is a co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, co-founder and president of the nonprofit Sports Legacy Institute, and author of “Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis.”
Professional football can be made “safer,” but to be made “safe” depends on your definition of the word. A sport involving full speed blocking and tackling will always cause injury. But injuries and safety are two separate concepts.One way to make professional football safer is to change how we play youth football.
The great problem with brain injuries in the N.F.L. has been “informed consent” — the disclosure of risk to the players. We allow adults to do all kinds of dangerous jobs for pay, from police officers and firefighters to commercial fisherman and miners. But the risk in those jobs are common knowledge, so we think those workers have informed consent.
That has not been the case with the risks of brain injuries in pro football. As reported by Alan Schwarz in the Times, the National Football League was not disclosing to players the risks of concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), the progressive brain disease that eventually leads to dementia, which were well known to academic researchers.
How often do concussions go unnoticed?
By not acknowledging the risks, sensible safety measures were not putting in place to protect the athletes. Now that the N.F.L. has evolved and is aggressively supporting education and awareness programs, research, and making adjustments to the game, informed consent will soon exist and we can focus on making the game safer.
Equipment, rule changes and penalties should always be assessed and reassessed in light of new research. I support recent changes in the N.F.L. and the N.C,A.A. and youth programs, including banning the wedge on kickoff return, assessing penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits on defenseless players, as well as changes in concussion management practices.
As for making the season shorter, that’s an interesting discussion that is mostly between the N.F.L. Players Association and the league. It’s difficult to quantify whether there will be increased risk of injury in swapping two preseason games for two regular season games, though starters who might skip the preseason games will now be at greater risk for injury.
I believe there is a separate, and better, way to make professional football safe(r): change how we play youth football. The reality is that the average pro football career is about three years; but a player almost always plays at least 10 years of football (youth, high school and college) before going pro, and some play 15 years prior to getting paid to play.
If we are worried about the cumulative effects of brain trauma, we need to adopt aggressive measures to prevent injury in the children’s game.
The developing young brain is far more vulnerable to the metabolic and chemical changes of concussion. Young people are also biomechanically vulnerable compared with adults. Having larger heads relative to their bodies along with weaker necks means that more force from hits to the head gets distributed to the brain rather than the body. And they have little to no access to medical professionals on the playing field, so there is a greater risk of concussions not being identified or being improperly treated.
The revelation that Owen Thomas, the 21-year-old co-captain at the University of Pennsylvania, who was already suffering from C.T.E. when he committed suicide in April, tells us that some players may enter the N.F.L. already suffering from C.T.E., , Therefore, our greatest opportunity to limit their long-term risk is to change their exposure before the N.F.L..
Football needs “hit counts” like youth baseball has “pitch counts.” In baseball, all kids are subject to restrictions because some may suffer cumulative injuries to their elbows. Yet in football we’ve never thought the brain, which is more important than the elbow, could be subject to the same kind of cumulative injury. That is insanity.
We should limit exposure to brain trauma risks for kids under 18 because they aren’t old enough to accept those risks. By doing that, we can significantly reduce the number of hits they will have suffered by the time they get to the pro level (perhaps by 50 percent). It seems to me that by making youth football safer we can most effectively reduce the risk for cumulative brain trauma going forward for pro players.