These days — years after retiring from the NFL — Terry Bradshaw is proactive about his health.
“You have to take charge of your life. You have to take control of it,” he tells PEOPLE while promoting his new campaign with Pfizer, All About Your Boom.
That’s why, years prior, Bradshaw visited a clinic to see if he is suffering from any football-related brain trauma.
“The head trauma has become a major focal point, if not the major focal point of the National Football League,” Bradshaw — who played 14 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and won four Super Bowls — tells PEOPLE. “I played in the ’70s. That wasn’t the case. They just had a few rules. We used to slam bodies, hit out of bounds. People loved it. Everybody wanted to watch that. It’s different now.”
Continues Bradshaw, “I think late in the ’70s, and even more so recently, player safety has become the number one priority, as it should be. We’re all asked the same question all the time: ‘Would you go back and play knowing what you know now?’ “
Bradshaw says he absolutely would, but still: “Do I fear for dementia? Do I fear for CTE? I’ve been asked to donate my brain. I told them, ‘No. I’m not donating my brain.’ “
CTE is a brain disease caused by repeated concussions and traumatic brain injuries that has been diagnosed in many deceased professional football players. It can only be diagnosed after death.
Bradshaw spent three days getting tested for possible signs of CTE, if any. He was prompted after feeling more and more forgetful, admitting, “I told my wife, ‘Something is not right.’ “
“You realize we don’t understand concussions,” he shares.
In a 2017 study of the brains of 111 deceased NFL players, a Boston University researcher found that 110 of them had the disease. Those statistics have led many players, presumably at the prime of their NFL career, to walk away from the field.
Earlier this year, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, 30, announced his retirement from professional football. He has since revealed that he’s had “at least 20 concussions.” Months later, Andrew Luck announced his surprise retirement, saying, “I’m in pain”
“I think Gronk knew,” Bradshaw says of recognizing the dangers. “Only an athlete knows his body. When I played, they used to say things like, ‘You’ll always play hurt.’ “
Now, Bradshaw says, “I’m glad the athletes are being proactive. … Smart, smart.”
That take-charge attitude is something Bradshaw now employs when it comes to his own health, and it’s what he hopes to encourage fellow adults 65 years or older to do with the Pfizer campaign.
“Basically, what they’re telling the baby boomers is this, ‘Do you enjoy fishing? Do you enjoy traveling? Do you enjoy your grandkids? Take care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise,’ ” says Bradshaw, who appears in several fun videos for All About Your Boom. And also, speak with healthcare providers about the risk of vaccine-preventable disease, like pneumococcal pneumonia.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is a potentially serious bacterial lung disease that can spread through coughing or close contact.
“I’m a Baby Boomer. I’m 71. I work out more than ever,” says Bradshaw, who appeared on The Masked Singer last season. “The fact is, health is the most important thing. … There’s more out there for us to live longer, to be healthier, and it’d be foolish not to take advantage of it.”