Legend's NFL-induced ailments are now legion

NEW YORK • Joe Montana enjoyed one of the most storied careers in American football (NFL) history. But the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has detailed extensive physical problems caused by more than 15 years in the league, including knee pain, neck pain, eye trouble - and arthritis that "hurts like crazy" in the middle of the night.

Montana, 59, will handle the coin toss at Super Bowl 50 (this morning, Singapore time), but that is one of the few things he can do without feeling pain.

"My hands have been - oh my gosh - in the middle of the night they hurt like crazy," he told USA Today. "(And) they kept saying I'll need a knee replacement when I can't walk. I can't really run or do much with it."

Montana, who won four Super Bowls with the 49ers, has spent much of his retirement in the doctor's office.

Recently, he had elbow surgery and now he's got problems in his neck. To date, he has had three neck fusions, and his knee is so badly damaged he can't straighten it.

"The mental part was hard initially when I first retired," said Montana. "Because it's quick - cold turkey, the game's gone. Then the physical stuff tries to catch up with you.

"I think I'm headed down the fusion thing again. The path of a nerve they think is being affected."

Montana also has a damaged eye caused by repeated head trauma. "Can't figure out where that came from," he deadpanned. "It acts like a lazy eye to some degree because every time you're tired, it kind of goes wherever it feels like a little bit,'' he said. "Not dramatic but just enough where you can't read or you have to refocus."

He also said his ailments have prevented him from doing some of the things he loves.

"I love basketball. I can't play basketball. I can shoot, but that's about it. I can't run up and down the court. My knee just gives out.

"I tried a little bit of skiing, but unfortunately when you get weight on one ski under my left knee, it's just not very strong. After my first back surgery, what kind of compounds things is (that) my sciatic nerve has been damaged. So the muscles along my sciatic nerve into my left foot have been numb since 1986."

On Saturday, Cam Newton was crowned the National Football League's Most Valuable Player as the Carolina Panthers quarterback warmed up for the Super Bowl clash with the Denver Broncos with two honours on the sport's annual awards night.

Newton, who had a record-breaking season which saw him pass for 35 touchdowns and rush for 10 more, also won the offensive player of the year award.

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DENVER V CAROLINA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2016, with the headline 'Legend's NFL-induced ailments are now legion'. Print Edition | Subscribe