August 17, 2018 10:43:17 AM
STARKVILLE -- Henry Davison, finally home after a week in the hospital, just wanted some tea after breakfast. He put the tea on the stove and went upstairs to rest while it brewed.
Then he smelled smoke. He thought it was his neighbors burning leaves; only after 30 minutes did he remember he was making tea. He went downstairs to find the water gone and the tea bags on fire.
He did the very same thing the next day, this time forgetting the tea as he went to mow his lawn. He was not this way before football.
Davison is convinced his two years as a Mississippi State defensive back/kick returner and the years of football before it have left irreparable damage on his body and mind, and that's why he is part of a class action concussion lawsuit against the NCAA, the Southeastern Conference and other bodies of collegiate athletics. Davison shared the reasons he joined the suit with The Dispatch.
"Before playing football, I felt I was in perfect health, mentally and physically. Now I have serious pain in my back, knees, joints, etc. And mentally, I'm not like I used to be," Davison said via email. "I have mental health issues. I've even been hospitalized a few times because of them, even several times recently. I never had that before. I suffer from serious memory loss, sometimes I get paranoid, I take things the wrong way easily. And it's easy for me to get angry about small things, and perceive things the wrong way often."
MSU said it has no comment on Davison's part of the litigation, but added it only a target of the litigation by its affiliation with the SEC and it is, "a recognized leader in helmet research designed to protect athletes and military personnel."
The Dispatch had to speak with Davison via email because he is still recovering from a recent hospital visit, one tied to the mental issues he says were given to him by football. Davison said he battles debilitating paranoia, to the point that doctors suggested he take it easy and stay away from big crowds. He's had trouble sleeping recently.
He said he damaged a nerve in his back when he was tackled in his, "early football days." He's since been given a monitor he can wear that will shoot electrodes into his back to help, but he can't remember where it is. When his back goes out, there's little he can do.
Davison described a life that has been, in every way imaginable, impacted by football's lingering effects.
"Since I came out of football I've been through a lot -- relationships, work, etc. I've had trouble with communication, showing affection/emotion. I didn't have this problem before," Davison said. "It's easy for me to get into arguments and overworked and frustrated. When this happens, I can't control it. I'll do things I later recognize I shouldn't -- I'll turn off my phone, stop talking to friends or family for days, etc. Same thing for work -- I have a hard time holding down a job, both because of pain and mental health issues. I have a hard time remembering things at work and also have control problems -- just recently, I was just overseeing a job and overreacted over a very minor thing to my crew. I had to go back and apologize after for overreacting. I never had those problems before.
"I have to be real careful with everything I do. If I bend over and do something that may seem like no big deal to most people, I could easily throw out my back and be in excruciating pain for days."
Through it all, Davison harbors no ill will toward the sport. He said he still watches football on Sundays and has grandchildren that play the game. He tells his grandchildren to focus on academics, to make themselves bigger than football; when he watches games on television, he sees how the game is more aggressive than it used to be and fears for the future of those players.
Therein lies the reason he is in this lawsuit. Davison doesn't want to bring football down. He wants football to help those it harms.
"This world is tough enough. These guys are committing suicide. I think about what's going to happen to those guys after," Davison said. "Football is America's game. It's aggressive, but I just wasn't aware of the toll it was going to take on me later in life. I didn't have a clue that football would impact me like this when I was older. The NCAA was supposed to be protecting us and they should have told us and helped.
"I gave them years of my life and now I'm suffering. And many folks are suffering like me. We need help."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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