NEW YORK (AP) -Troy Aikman says he has no symptoms from his 10 concussions during his Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys. Defensive players, he thinks, are more at risk than quarterbacks.
Aikman, however, does have migraine headaches - he's had them all his life. And he's on a campaign to let men know that it's not just women who have migraines - an estimated 7 million American men have them, too.
Aikman spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday less than a week after the release of a study of more than 2,500 retired NFL players. It found that those who had at least three concussions during their careers had triple the risk of clinical depression as those who had no none.
The 40-year-old Aikman noted that his retirement at 34, young for a star quarterback, was due more to back problems than concussions. But he praised the NFL for its recent decision to run baseline tests on all players in training camp so the league can later determine how much their brains have changed from hits to the head.
``I think people got the impression that Steve Young and I were forced out by concussions,'' he said. ``For me, it was more my back.''
``I've had no problems since,'' he added. ``From my perspective, I think I got off relatively lightly. I think defensive players are far more at risk than quarterbacks - they get hit on every play and may often have concussions they don't know about. The fact that doctors will now have a record of how much change there has been is a huge step forward.''
Aikman's sentiments were echoed by Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy during the Colts' workouts in Indianapolis.
``We certainly know a lot more now than we did 15 years ago,'' said Dungy, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s.
``In our case, the doctors have always had a say in when a guy plays. When a guy gets here we do a baseline test and when a guy gets a concussion, we do the same test again. He's not allowed to play again until he scores in the same range and that's not how it was when I played, but I think our players deserve that care.''
One of those defensive players Aikman was discussing, Colts safety Bob Sanders, said he often thinks about the long-term effects.
``Your life is way more important; it goes beyond playing football,'' said Sanders, known for his hard-hitting. ``We live and breathe playing football, but it isn't forever. That's why NFL stands for Not For Long. It doesn't last forever.''
``Once it's over and if you can't think or your mind is affected, it can be devastating for some guys,'' he added. ``They can pay for it later, so you have to do what you can to get educated and don't come back just so you can be out there. Don't come back until you're clear.''
Aikman said his migraines aren't related to football - he's had them since he was very young. They are triggered, he said, by cigarette smoke and by flying, which he does more now in his capacity as a broadcaster than he did as a player.
But he said his headaches were diagnosed as migraines only a year ago when he consulted a doctor about them.
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AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this story.
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On the Net:
National Headache Week:
http://headaches.about.com/od/migrainediseas1/a/nhaw05.htm
www.headachequiz.com
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