Former NFL players given free health screenings

Life after football can be a struggle for many former players. After years of collisions and injuries the body, and sometimes the mind, eventually break down. To help identify and prevent any serious future ailments, dozens of former NFL players were given access to free health screenings thanks to the collaboration of the Living Heart Foundation and Seton Heart Institute.

James Williams and Tomur Barnes once shared the field as teammates on the Houston Oilers in the mid 1990's. Today they are sharing the same doctors office.

"I came to get an evaluation, to see where I stood," Williams, a former Indianapolis Colt and Houston Oiler, said.

To see how their bodies are holding up from years on the gridiron.

"We're doing a very extensive screening, health evaluation of these retired football players, ranging in age for their 20's to 70's," Dr. George Rodgers, a cardiologist at Seton Heart Institute, said.

Williams and Barnes are a pair of over 40 former NFL players who made the trip to Austin to take part in the screenings that cover heart disease and a number of other ailments sustained from playing football. For some players, that list is longer most.

"Torn achilles, ACL, dislocated shoulder, about 13 concussions, back injuries, pulled hams(strings), groins, quads. I mean you name it, you played probably with almost all of them," Williams said.

For other players like Barnes, a former cornerback who played from 1993 to 2000, they left the game without a limp.

"Well I'm one of the blessed ones, I played (football) for over 25 years and retired healthy."

Although Barnes is still in great physical shape he isn't letting this opportunity beat him deep.

"I think this (free health screening) are a great idea because my dad dropped dead of a massive heart attack right in front of me," said Barnes.

It is also a chance for former teammates to come together after years apart.

"It's a great thing because I haven't seen some of these guys in 20 years. I just saw one of my old teammates from the Oilers and he was some big offensive tackle, he was huge when I got to the Oilers. I haven't seen him since i was 24," Barnes said.

While they may no longer be lining up against each other on the field, they are still competing against each other to stay healthy.

"I ache, I have ailments but it is something that you just need to address and if you don't and you don't take care of yourself, nobody else will."

The health screenings will continue on Sunday for high school athletes. Not only will they undergo extensive check-ups, they will also have the chance to meet and talk several former NFL players.

The screening will be lead by Championship Hearts and will be at the Seton Heart Institute, on 1301 W. 38th St., Suite 400, from 1 P.M. to 4 P.M.

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