UNDATED (CNN) -- They spent years on the gridiron, but now former NFL players and doctors are speaking out against football's "gladiator mentality." The mindset leads them to play through the pain, and often at a player's personal expense. Some say it's time for the game to change.
Fast-paced action and bone crushing hits, it's what makes football so appealing to fans, but also harmful to the players. Dr. Ched Garten says, "I've seen that on occasion where players made a big hit, gets up, kind of stumbling to find his, where to line up."
Garten is a former NFL team doctor. he says most players perform at a heightened sense of arousal allowing them to play through pain, but also face a number of other pressures. Garten says, "Their income depends on it and how they perform plays a role in that. Not only that, it is scrutinized by the media, the fans, everyone that's watching their performance."
Garrison Hearst says, "You go out there with reckless abandon and you play the game." That's the gladiator mindset. Hearst was a running back with the San Francisco 49ers. Doctors said he would never play again after a debilitating ankle injury. He was back on the field after two years of rehab. Hearst says, "I think it's within, but I also think it's learned as you play. First thing you learn in football, hey if it's not broken, you can still go."
Apply that mindset to head trauma and there's a potential for life altering injuries. After seeing what some of these men have been through and what their families have been through Alge Crumpler says it scares him, "When they're taking their own life, it absolutely does scare me."
Crumpler was a tight end in the nfl for ten years. He had a few concussions on record, but admits there were probably more. He says, "I missed four games due to injury in my ten year career. I probably should have missed twice that, maybe even more."
Hearst adds, "I would do it all over again. Right now. Because I loved every minute of it."
That same sentiment is echoed by most NFL players, yet they admit change is needed. Crumpler says, "You grow up teaching kids to knock the crap out of each other, you know, there going to, as they get older, that's all they're going to do, but if you teach them the proper way to tackle, the fundamentals, then they can be that change the game needs."