Since the entire Jason Pierre-Paul story broke last week, most of the focus has been on what it means for the defensive end on the field and is current contract situation with the Giants.
While some have looked at how Pierre-Paul is going to handle the amputation of a finger, no one has really focused on the emotional toll it might take. After all, losing an extremity like that can have rather big psychological consequences.
Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott knows full well what it means to deal with amputation during his playing days. Part of Lott’s lasting legacy, his left pinkie was amputated back in 1986 after multiple breaks of the finger and following doctor recommendations that he have it removed.
Speaking up about his personal experience and correlating it to what Pierre-Paul will be going through, Lott had this to say on the Rich Eisen Show last week (h/t NY Daily News):
“When the doctor took off the bandage to my hand he said, ‘How does it look?’ ” Lott said. “I’ll never forget, I was sitting there going, ‘Man, that looks like ET’s head.’ ”
Expanding on what it means for Pierre-Paul, Lott continued:
“He’ll be able to play with it and he’ll learn how to deal with it,” Lott said. “But the moment of not seeing it, the moment of looking at your hand and looking down and realizing you have that phantom (finger), where you use your finger but you don’t see it, there’s a lot of things emotionally that he’ll have to deal with. He’ll have to learn how to understand that it’s not there and that there are things that will play tricks on his mind.”
That’s the key right there. Many amputees deal with “phantom limb sensations” and “phantom pain.” While in no way common for all amputees, it does present a psychological issue. In addition to this, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is found in 25 percent of individuals who had an extremity amputated due to what is called a traumatic incident (via National Institutes of Health).
While the obvious reaction is to focus on how Pierre-Paul’s injury will impact him physically, it’s also important to look at how he will be emotionally impacted by it. After all, success on the field isn’t solely physical.
Once he’s going through the recovery process, Pierre-Paul would be wise to call on Lott for some advice. At the very least, the former safety could help provide him with personal experiences relating to amputation and how to deal with it moving forward.
Photo: USA Today Sports