Edina – Ben Utecht has written a book about his life as a college and professional football player who suffered five major concussions. He has surprising advice for parents of youth football players.
Utecht, whose concussions slowly are eroding his memory, believes boys should not play tackle football until they are in ninth grade.
His book, “Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away,” details his love of football, despite the injuries it caused, and his deep love of family and his amazing effort to preserve his most precious asset: his brain.
The book, now in bookstores, with contributions by Mark Tabb, details Utecht’s love of football and his family, wife Karyn and his four daughters, and the impact of Christianity on his life.
Utecht suffered numerous minor concussions and five major ones while playing football for Hastings high school, the University of Minnesota, the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals.
He wears a Super Bowl ring earned while playing tight end for the Colts and coach Tony Dungy. He paid the price for playing football, suffering an unbelievable number of injuries while sometimes playing through pain.
The concussion that had the most impact on Utecht came in a 2006 game against the Houston Texans. He caught a pass and was hit cleanly as he was falling, only to have another player target his head, spearing him helmet-to-helmet.
“My head violently snapped to the side as my helmet flew off. I thought I had broken my neck. A curtain slowly drew down into my field of vision, in a circle, like the end of an old movie. I blacked out,” he wrote in the book.
That blow, plus all the others, took its toll on his brain and caused the Bengals to release him. More recently, Utecht and his family are hopeful because he has had incredible success in strengthening his memory through a cognitive fitness program applied by Learning Rx.
A recent test showed all those classes and mental workouts are paying off.
“I am overwhelmed with joy to share that I tested in the 78th percentile for long-term memory and remarkably in the 98th percentile for delayed long-term memory,” he wrote.
Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers.