David Pollack

DAVID POLLACK, 30, linebacker with Cincinnati, 2005-07, suffered a career-ending neck injury in a collision with running back Reuben Droughns of Cleveland in 2006.  Immobile as he lay on the field, he suffered a fractured sixth cervical vertebra and later underwent spinal fusion surgery, having to wear a halo brace for 3 months.  Pollack missed the entire 2007 season while rehabbing and holding out hope that he could return, but retired in 2008.  The New Brunswick, NJ, native said his last play was a freak hit and that he’d been hit harder than that before.  Pollack now works with ESPN.–“No. 10 Bengals draft bust of all-time: David Pollack”, CincyJungle.com 4/19/15, Josh Kirkendall.

Rob Lytle

ROB LYTLE, 56, running back with Denver, 1977-83, died of a massive heart attack in 2010 after having suffered a stroke in 2009, and was found to have moderate to severe CTE.  Involved in one of the most famous plays in Broncos history, against the Oakland Raiders in the 1978 AFC championship game, he revealed in an April 2007 interview that he had suffered a concussion against the Pittsburgh Steelers the previous week. He said he briefly blacked out when Raiders safety Jack Tatum hit him on his carry from the Oakland 2-yard line.  Lytle lost control of the ball and the Raiders recovered, but officials ruled his forward motion was stopped before the fumble, and Denver scored on the next play, winning 20-17 to advance to their first Super Bowl.  “Honest to God, I don’t even remember the play,” Lytle said, laughing in 2007. “I told you what happened the week before. So I must have had a bad concussion. I had headaches and stuff, but those were the days that you didn’t … well, it was a different era. I went over the top and Tatum hit me. I can’t tell you (anything) other than what I see on film, because I was out.”  Lytle’s son, Kelly, said, “(Doctors) said to us, ‘Your dad must have been a hyper-intelligent individual.’  They said the reason for that was because of what we told them and the fact that he still was able to hold down a day-to-day job without any negative reports from it.  He had been able to mask it.  They were shocked that with as far along as the CTE was, that he was more or less able to compensate and mask it with the normalcy of his day-to-day life.”  Lytle was working as a bank executive when he died.  Kelly has written a book, “To Dad, From Kelly” about their relationship. Lytle’s widow, Tracy, is part of the class-action lawsuit against the NFL.  Tracy, Kelly and the Lytles’ daughter, Erin Tober, are on the family advisory board of SLI, Sports Legacy Institute, which, in conjunction with Boston University, examines brains for CTE. “He understood that football was such a violent game and that by playing it he was putting his body and his mind and everything at risk,” Kelly said. “For him that was kind of the acceptable collateral damage because he loved the game so much that he wanted to be part of it.”–“CTE “warning signs” existed before former Broncos RB Rob Lytle’s death in 2010″, DenverPost.com 5/26/15, Terry Frei.

George Montgomery

GEORGE MONTGOMERY, 43, running back with Arizona State, 1989-93, committed suicide by shooting himself at the end of July 2014 and was found to have CTE.  He had also been in the Philadelphia Eagles organization and played a couple years in Europe.  His mother, Denese, contends that Montgomery did not commit suicide: “My child wouldn’t kill himself.”  On 7/31/14 hikers found his body floating face down in Beaver Creek in Yavapai County (AZ), whose medical examiner determined from an autopsy that Montgomery shot himself 3 times and sustained 4 wounds, 2 shots entering the heart.  Investigators found a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun in the water, according to the police report.  It had one hollow-point round in the chamber, but the five-round magazine was empty.  Authorities tracked the gun to San Diego, where it had been reported stolen in 2011.  A representative from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office told sheriff’s deputies that Montgomery had been investigated before and was the “main target” in a criminal case that had sprung from a $3 million Ponzi scheme.–“Mother seeks answers in son’s mysterious death”, The Arizona Republic 5/26/15, Matthew Casey.  From USAtoday.com.

Rick Vida Jr

RICK VIDA Jr, 14, freshman with Frankton HS (IN), collapsed after practice on 8/23/83 and died soon afterward.  The Madison County Coroner, John Noffze, said that the player’s heart was nearly 3 times its normal size when he died.–“PLAYER DIED OF ENLARGED HEART”, NY Times 8/25/83.

Michael Barbieri

MICHAEL BARBIERI, 16, junior with North Shore HS in Long Island, NY, collapsed and died at football practice on 8/23/83 of an abnormally enlarged heart.  Such a condition would be detected by X-ray or an EKG but would not necessarily be evident from a routine examination with a stethoscope, according to medical authorities.  A Nassau County medical examiner said Barbieri should have never played.  Barbieri, who had never before tried out for the school’s football team, received a preseason examination about two weeks prior, according to Murray Hoffinger, assistant superintendent of the North Shore schools. ”It’s a routine physical with a stethoscope,” said Hoffinger.  “There is no X-ray or EKG.  I don’t know of any school that does anything beyond the stethoscope.”–“PLAYER DIED OF ENLARGED HEART”, NY Times 8/25/83.


Chris Huhn

CHRIS HUHN, 20, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman with Marshall, has retired because of 4 or 5 documented concussions he’s sustained.  “Due to concerns about my recent concussions I have decided not to play football anymore.  My mental health and my future are too important to risk in my opinion.  I will still go to school here at Marshall University and help out with the team any way I can.  Thank you to Marshall University and everyone who has helped me get this far.  It’s been a great ride!!”–“Chris Huhn decides his playing days are over”, CharlestonDailyMail.com 3/27/15, Derek Redd.  (From a post by Chris Huhn on his Twitter feed on 3/27/15.)

Chris Norton

CHRIS NORTON, 23, a former college football player who broke his neck during a game in 2010, said he was given a 3 percent chance of ever regaining movement below his neck.  On 5/23/15 he got engaged and the next day he walked across the stage at his graduation from Luther College in Decorah, IA, accomplishing a goal he had set over a year ago.  Assisted by his fiancee, Emily Summers, Norton rose from his wheelchair and took steps in front a cheering crowd to receive his diploma in business management, KCCI reported.  “It was like my gameday,” he told The Des Moines Register.  “I was in the zone, focusing on what I needed to do and not worrying about anyone or anything else.”  According to NBC, Norton has gradually regained movement while in therapy. He’s also launched a foundation called SCI CAN to help finance high-priced equipment for people recovering from spinal injuries.  In part to provide inspiration for spinal cord injury patients, he publicly declared he would walk at his ceremony.  Norton completed school a semester early to train for the big moment.  “And there’s still so many things I can accomplish.”–“Paralyzed Ex-Football Player Chris Norton Walked Again, Graduated And Got Engaged. How Was Your Weekend?”, HuffingtonPost.com 5/26/15, Ron Dicker.

Scott Gragg

SCOTT GRAGG, 43, offensive lineman with the NY Giants, SF and NY Jets, 1995-2005, says he never sustained a concussion.  He played in 172 NFL games, during one period starting 112 games in a row.  He also started 38 games in a row collegiately at Montana, where he won the Paul Weskamp Award as outstanding offensive lineman 3 years in a row.  Gragg thinks the media is hyper-sensitive on concussions and believes weight training is a preventative.  Besides strengthening the shoulders and neck, he believes proper technique is critical.  “The value of football, of what you can do, how you can grow and what you can be, far outweighs any health risk out there.”–“In defense of a national treasure”, Missoulian.com 3/28/15, Bill Speltz.  GoGriz.com.

Terry Tautolo

TERRY TAUTOLO, 60, linebacker with Philadelphia, SF, Detroit and Miami, 1976-84, retired because of brain damage from concussions, became addicted to meth and homeless before his former coach at UCLA, Dick Vermeil, helped get him off the streets and into a Santa Monica treatment program.  As part of his treatment, Tautolo is serving as a mentor and works with children living with autism.  The Rose Bowl and Super Bowl champion now has a wide safety net of friends helping him to stay sober.  CBS Sacramento first aired a story about his being homeless in 2012.  Though MRI’s showed several spots in his brain that could be concussion related, he says the concussions were not related to his homelessness.  Vermeil thinks otherwise: “I do believe it was part of it, because he did experience a number of concussions.  But he didn’t want to use that as a crutch.”  Tautolo said: “At my age, now I think back that, wow, he’s still with me.  And I’m not playing any more ball.  He still calls me up.  What down is it?  That’s how I treat it.”–“Former NFL player tackles homelessness after living under LA freeway,” CBSnews.com 9/26/14, CBS Los Angeles.

IHSA Asks for Dismissal of Lawsuit

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA), the nation’s first prep sports governing body to face a class-action concussions lawsuit, has asked an Illinois judge to dismiss the suit, arguing that if it prevails, it could kill football programs statewide.  In a 16-page motion filed in Cook County Circuit Court, the IHSA says it and its 800 member schools have been proactive about improving head-injury management for the 50,000 football players they oversee each year.  The filing echoes IHSA director Marty Hickman’s previous comments to reporters that court-imposed mandates could make football prohibitively expensive for poorer schools, especially Chicago’s public high schools, and lead to “haves and have-nots” in the sport.  Plaintiff attorney Joseph Siprut has said improving safety should help football survive, not lead to its demise.  He said football is already in jeopardy because parents fearful of concussions are refusing to let their kids play, potentially drying up the talent pool. The lawsuit doesn’t seek monetary damages.  In addition to court oversight, it seeks requirements that medical personnel be present at all games and practices, among other mandates.  It also calls for the IHSA to pay for medical testing of former high school football players extending back to 2002.  The lead plaintiff in the initial suit was Daniel Bukal, an ex-quarterback at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles.  He was replaced in the amended suit by Alex Pierscionek, a former South Elgin High School lineman.  Pierscionek alleges he still suffers memory loss from concussions he received playing at the suburban Chicago school from 2010 to 2014.  The suit is filed as a class-action, but the court has not yet approved that status.–“Illinois group says concussions lawsuit ‘threatens’ football”, ESPN.com from AP, 4/13/15.