54.2 million dollars. That is the size of the contract that Philadelphia Eagle Brandon Brooks just signed making him the highest paid offensive guard in the entire NFL. This groundbreaking contract shows how much the Eagles value Brooks but also triggered an anxiety attack for Brooks during last Sunday's game against the Seahawks. He has been one of the few NFL players who have openly spoke about having an anxiety condition and has become a face for mental health advocacy in professional sports. By speaking to news media outlets he has used his platform to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and has helped to show his fans; most importantly his young fans, that it is okay to seek help, and talk about what you are feeling.
This anxiety attack was announced as an "illness" to fans during the game however, Brooks went to Twitter later that day to explain that it was in fact an anxiety attack that prevented him from continuing on in the game. Sunday was Brooks' third career game that he missed due to an anxiety attack. He was diagnosed during the 2016 season after missing two games that year. Nearly three years later he woke up the day of the game and could not stop throwing up and none of his usual pregame rituals were helping him. Brooks tried to push through but continued to throw up on the sidelines.
While he is no stranger to anxiety this is the first time his teammate got to witness how deeply it impacts him. “I wouldn't say I would know what he's going through, but from the looks of it, I felt so bad for Brandon, and I know how bad he wanted to be out there, Brandon is an important piece to this team. He's one of the guys I hang out with outside of the locker room, I text a lot, talk on the phone a lot, check on each other. I just want to be there for him,” said Eagles player Fletcher Cox. It is essential that you surround yourself with supportive people who take your mental health seriously and want to do what they can to help. Cox was trying to talk to Brooks on the sidelines of the game and see if there was anything he could do. Ultimately Brooks went back into the locker room and was unable to return.
Brooks attributed his record-breaking contract extension as a massive trigger for his anxiety. This contract solidified that the Eagle's see a lot of value in him as a player and teammate but it also put a lot of pressure on him to be "worth it". He has always put a lot of pressure on himself to be the best possible player he can be and this work ethic is a huge reason he is where he is today but it also has caused him a lot of personal strain.
We at PA Parent and Family Alliance love to see a celebrity figure opening up about mental health and helping to chip away at the stigma surrounding it. Brooks has fans all around the country, and a large portion of them reside in the Greater Philadelphia area. These fans now have someone to look to that has been very open about the fact that not only does he have an anxiety condition but he is not ashamed of it. This is especially impactful in a professional football player because often football is associated with toxic masculinity and the ideal that men should be tough and not express their emotions. Now young football fans have a role model who is one of the best and toughest offensive guards in the NFL and has anxiety.
People around the nation have reached out to Brooks about how groundbreaking this disclosure is. Other professional athletes, fans, and parents of young fans are delighted that this is being talked about on a national stage and nobody is pretending it does not exist or that his feelings aren't valid. “We're supposed to be modern gladiators, man. We're getting paid more than the rest of the public and we're playing what some people call it just a game. We're not supposed to have any emotions. We're supposed to just play, do what we're told and things like that. At the end of the day, we're people, we're human beings, we go through the same things that everybody else goes through," said Brooks.
Brooks wants his fans to take away that; “When it comes to mental health issues, I think the biggest thing is to embrace it, accept it and understand why and really to attack it, It’s no different than pulling a hamstring. … It’s the same thing mentally. I want to make sure that people understand that it’s something one, you can attack and you can get better, and two, that by just hoping it gets better, that’s not necessarily the best strategy. It’s OK to seek help, it’s OK to get help, and it will get better.”
Sunday against the Miami Dolphins Brooks will be back on the field hopefully helping the Eagles to a much needed victory. However to fans and parents of fans suffering from anxiety conditions he has already scored big.