FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - In professional football, no position is immune to injury.
"I used to say playing in the NFL was like fighting the toughest guy in school but knowing a weekend ahead of time," said former linebacker Ron Pritchard.
Pritchard played professional football for eight years from the late 1960s to the 1970s.
"When I was with the Houston Oilers, we played on AstroTurf, which was like playing on cement," said Pritchard.
By the time he left the game in 1978, he broken down all the cartilage in his knees.
"I was bone on bone, literally bone on bone," he said. "So finally I looked into knee replacement, but I had no insurance."
Pritchard found an organization called NFL Player Care Foundation, which was created in 2007 to help address some of the quality of life issues that confront retired players.
"For the majority of guys, they come out of the game and they are affected by the experience of being hit not only during the NFL years, but during the college years, during their high school game years, and playing as a child, so by the time even a short career is over, many of these guys do come out pretty banged up," said Dana Lihan, with the Foundation.
Lihan said the average career length for an NFL player is under four years, and many don't leave with the ability to make the kind of money they made while playing.
"As a result, they end up coming to us," she said.
Through the Foundation, Pritchard qualified for a knee replacement surgery through the joint replacement program at Broward General Medical Center.
"We've worked with the Player Care Foundation since its inception," said Dr. W. Vincent Burke, an orthopedic surgeon with Broward Health. "The joint replacement, when successful, can greatly improve their quality of life, improve their mobility and take them out of pain."
Pritchard was back home in Arizona shortly after surgery and looking forward to a chance to be active again.
"I'm not going to stop here. I have other joints that they've agreed to look at," said Pritchard. "This is good; they did something very good,"
Broward General Medical Center is one of is one of 14 centers around the country participating in the NFL Player Care program and the only participating center in Florida.
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