“All I could do was prepare to ram my head into whatever wall awaited me. Sometimes I broke tackles and bounced off elbows slammed at my head. Frequently, I returned to the huddle dazed and counting the stars. At that point in my life, had I ever even heard the word concussion?…By the end of our season, after winning our division and then the championship against Langley High, I was rewarded with the city writers’ all-city Most Valuable Player award. I also received a second, ongoing prize in the form of a series of blackouts that had begun during regular season play and landed me, right after the final game, at St. John’s Hospital on Pittsburgh’s North Side, out of my mind.”—John M. Brewer, Jr., from his book, “The Room”, which recounts his football experiences at Westinghouse HS in Pittsburgh, PA, in the early 1960s. Available at OneMonkeyBooks.com
JULIAN JONES, 16, defensive end with Hazel Green HS (AL), committed suicide at home in Meridianville, AL, on 10/6/14. Jones was the son of former Alabama A&M coach and NFL player Anthony Jones. He was heavily recruited by major universities and was in the process of choosing which scholarship to accept.—“Top high school football recruit and son of former Alabama A&M coach commits suicide at the age of 16”, MAILONLINE (DailyMail.co.uk) 10/7/14, Ashley Collman.
ROB KOMOSA, 30, running back with Rolling Meadows High School (IL), died of respiratory failure on 3/16/13. When he was 17 years old in 1999 he was tackled by 3 players during a drill and knocked into a metal post in a fence by the practice field. The impact fractured 2 vertebrae in Komosa’s neck and paralyzed him from the neck down. Since the injury, he had needed a ventilator to breathe and round-the-clock medical care provided by his mother, Barbara Komosa. Rob was co-founder of the Gridiron Alliance, which offers support to catastrophically injured athletes nationwide. “Family, friends mourn injured football player”, Chicago Tribune 3/13, Graydon Megan. Gridiron Alliance website.
TYLER VITIELLO was paralyzed playing football on 11/5/11 at Saddle Brook HS (NJ). Through his mother, Christine, Tyler connected to Komosa, who worked to find scholarship funds so Tyler could become an athletic trainer. He has regained the ability to walk and after rehab entered Montclair State University’s athletic training program.—Gridiron Alliance website.
The NFL now calculates that women account for 45% of its fan base.—“A fool’s world”, SF Chronicle Editorial on KNBR’s Damon Bruce, 11/13/13.
BRETT FAVRE, 45, quarterback with Green Bay, Atlanta, the NY Jets, and Minnesota, 1991-2010, has admitted fear over “pretty shocking memory lapses,” such as forgetting having seen his daughter’s soccer games. The Super Bowl winner and 3-time NFL MVP once played in 297 consecutive games and was sacked 525 times. He was once addicted to painkillers during his career and suffered a seizure that was probably related to his addiction. Favre once suffered a concussion during a game and re-entered without medical clearance, throwing a touchdown pass he didn’t remember. On his last play as a professional he suffered a concussion, being knocked out when his head hit the icy field. “I would be real leery about him playing,” Favre said, if he had a son. “I would have a hard time just throwing him out there.”–“Concussion concerns hit home when former QB forgets part of his life”, ESPN.com 10/31/13, Johnette Howard. “Bitter pill”, SI.com 5/27/96, Peter King. “Favre’s Concussion Adds to Packer Woes”—NY Times 10/4/04, Pat Borzi. Interview with Matt Lauer, “The Today Show” 11/18/03, NBC TV.
TERRY BRADSHAW, 66, quarterback with Pittsburgh, 1970-83, says the physical pounding sustained during his NFL career affects his memory and creates bouts of depression. The 4-time Super Bowl champion has been diagnosed with clinical depression and taken Paxil. “I was frustrated I couldn’t remember stuff, and I got real upset. It was driving me nuts. I got tested to see what condition my brain is in. And it’s not in real good shape.” The Hall of Famer would not let a son play football. He sought treatment for his problems on his own and did not tell his family or his employer, FOX. Bradshaw opted out of the players’ concussion lawsuit that was settled with the NFL for $765 million. “And if I’m not in the settlement, that’s one less guy out of the mix to pay and a little more money for someone else who really needs it.”—“Terry Bradshaw coping with memory loss, depression”, USA TODAY Sports 11/7/13, Bryce Miller.
JIM McMAHON, 55, quarterback with Chicago, San Diego, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Arizona, Cleveland and Green Bay, 1982-96, has dementia and has contemplated suicide. He had a blockage in his neck that was causing spinal fluid to back up into his brain, which caused sharp pains. The Super Bowl champion credits the removal of the blockage with saving his life. “I still have dementia. I don’t have the sharp pains. I don’t have thoughts of killing myself anymore.”—“McMahon opens up about dementia”, Fox Sports 8/13, interview with affiliate WFLD-TV. AP.
JOE MONTANA, 58, quarterback with San Francisco and Kansas City, 1979-94 (missed the entire 1991 season due to a torn elbow tendon), has had at least 11 surgeries, including spinal fusion surgery, and at least 6 concussions. The spinal fusion causes occasional numbness in his arm. He’s had 3 neck surgeries as of June 2014. From repeated blows to the head, the 4-time Super Bowl champion has nerve damage in his right eye, causing it to sag occasionally. He will eventually need knee-replacement surgery, but is holding off as long as he can (he’s had at least 6 knee surgeries).—“Glory has its price”, SF Chronicle 1/07, Ron Kroichick. “Joe Cool: Montana Charms at London fan event”, The Sacramento Bee 10/26/13, sacbee.com, Matt Barrows. “Willie’s World”, SF Chronicle 6/1/14, Willie Brown.
STEVE YOUNG, 53, quarterback with Tampa Bay and San Francisco, 1985-99, retired after suffering his seventh concussion (at least). The Super Bowl champion has been knocked out and lost his ability to taste and smell for periods. He was hit approximately 21 times in a game against New Orleans in 1999. What he fears most for players is the micro-concussions, because they aren’t noticeable like the big hits. He says the unknown is a source of fear for players assessing the long-term effects of what they’ve absorbed. After Junior Seau’s suicide he wanted to ask all the guys he played with a long time: “Look me in the eye. Is everything all right?” Asked if he’d let his son play football, he said, “I would—well coached, well protected. For other reasons, I don’t know that I would want my son to play professional football.”—FRONTLINE interview with Jim Gilmore on 3/27/13.
JOE NAMATH, 72, quarterback with the NY Jets and LA Rams, 1965-77, says that playing football damaged his brain. “None of the body was designed to play football.” Famous for guaranteeing and completing the biggest upset in Super Bowl history in 1969, the Hall of Famer has had both knees replaced. He admitted he had a drinking problem and went into rehab after appearing drunk on a national TV interview with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber, saying he wanted to kiss her.—“Joe Namath says he has brain damage from football”, Yahoo! Sports 1/31/14, Jay Busbee referencing an interview with Rita Beaver on CBS Sunday Morning.
Namath Update: Namath, who has recently undergone treatment for brain injuries, was asked in an interview with Tiffany Kenney of ABC’s West Palm Beach, FL, affiliate WPBF-TV whether would still play the game, given all he has learned about the effects of concussions. “No,” he said. “I hate to say that because if I had a child who wanted to play I’d let them play … but I’d wait ’til he developed a little more. This instrument that we have, that we have been blessed with … it’s not designed for the kind of contact or physical abuse your body gets playing this sport.” Including high school, college and pros, he played 13 years. In September 2014, the Jupiter Medical Center in Jupiter, FL, opened the Joe Namath Neurological Research Center to help combat the debilitating effects of traumatic brain injuries. The center launched a clinical trial to study the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for treating the traumatic brain injuries that can result from sports-related concussions, motor vehicle accidents, strokes, military combat or other accidents. Namath not only helped raise $10 million to fund the project, he took part in the therapy, spending 120 sessions in the hyperbaric chamber. He knew that several other former players, including Dave Herman, who played with Namath on the Jets, had been diagnosed with degenerative brain disease that was linked to suffering repeated concussions. Namath had brain scans done that showed parts of his brain were not receiving enough blood. Since the treatments, he has felt better, he said, and his brain scans showed improvements. “The scans are beautiful and I really feel like I’ve gotten sharper. I feel better than ever.”–“Joe Namath Says He Wouldn’t Play Football Again”, ABCnews.go.com 4/30/15, Dean Schabner.