Booth asked sportswriters and ex-players about the worst injury they had ever seen. The stories he heard were almost too gruesome to read. He wrote about Alex Webster, a former great for the New York Giants who had “developed a radical mastoid problem from repeated thumps to the head.” Eventually, Webster required surgery that “involved cutting off his ears and then sewing them back on.” He then developed middle ear problems.

“Why maim yourself?” said Irv Cross, the former player-turned-sportscaster. “I don’t know. You just do it.” Jean Fugett, a tight end for the Cowboys who made $21,000 that year, said, “Injuries are just like death to a lot of players … death of a career … death of all that a lot of them want in life. So you say, ‘I’m not gonna worry about dying. I’m gonna go ahead and live!’ ”…

Today, says Fugett, he can’t sleep more than three hours a stretch without feeling pain somewhere in his body. He has no idea, he told me, how many concussions he sustained; back then, “you didn’t take yourself out of the game unless you stuffed two ammonia tablets up your nose and your head didn’t jerk back. That’s when you knew you were really concussed.” And he views himself as one of the lucky ones. Most of the former players he knows live with far more pain than he does.