Chuck Evans

CHUCK EVANS, 41, running back with Minnesota and the Baltimore Ravens, 1993-2000, died on 10/12/08 of heart failure.  His widow, Etopia, has joined a lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that Evans developed an addiction to painkillers as a result of his football career.  The lawsuit on behalf of more than 200 former players alleges teams pressured injured players to take painkillers illegally administered by team physicians without proper prescriptions and with minimal–if any–explanation of risk.  Players were pressured to take the painkillers or be cut.  “Each and every player we’ve spoken to discusses being pumped up with medications without warnings, without prescriptions, without examination,” said Steve Silverman, an attorney who is suing the franchises, including the Baltimore Ravens.  “Many players are suffering from heart disease and all types of other ailments as a result of the cocktailing of medications. The body can’t process these medications.” The lawsuit aims to provide compensation, medical screening and health insurance for the former players.–“Widow Of Former Ravens Player A Part Of New Lawsuit Against NFL Teams”, 5/22/15, Mary Bubala of WJZ.


Shrunken Brains

Date: May 18, 2015–Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Summary: In the first study of its kind, former National Football League (NFL) players who lost consciousness due to concussion during their playing days showed key differences in brain structure later in life.

The hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory, was found to be smaller in 28 former NFL players as compared with a control group of men of similar age and education.  “While we found that aging individuals with a history of concussion and loss of consciousness showed smaller hippocampal volumes and lower memory test scores, the good news is that we did not detect a similar relationship among subjects with a history of concussion that did not involve loss of consciousness, which represents the vast majority of concussions,” said Dr. Munro Cullum, who holds the Pam Blumenthal Distinguished Professorship in Clinical Psychology.  Some of the retired NFL players also met criteria for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a condition that typically affects memory and may lead to dementia.  The findings were more pronounced among those who experienced more severe concussions.  The 28 former players ranged from 36 to 79 years old, with a mean age of 58.  Twenty-one healthy men of similar age, educational level, and intelligence with no history of concussion or professional football experience served as control subjects. The results do not explain why the hippocampus was smaller in the athletes who suffered more serious concussions.  Some shrinkage is a part of the normal aging process but the reduction is accentuated in MCI and was even more notable in those MCI subjects with a history of concussion accompanied by loss of consciousness.  Thus, there appears to be a cumulative effect of concussion history and MCI on hippocampal size and function.–“Concussion in former NFL players related to brain changes later in life”, 5/18/15.



Johnny Knox

JOHNNY KNOX, 28, wide receiver and kick returner with Chicago, 2009-11, was bent backward trying to recover his own fumble in a game versus Seattle on 12/18/11 and suffered a career-ending spinal injury.  He was drilled by Anthony Hargrove, a 6-3, 272-pound defensive end who was charging downfield full speed.  Knox’s body bent back grotesquely and he remained down on the field for nearly 10 minutes before being removed on a backboard and taken to the hospital, where he underwent surgery.  Knox was told that he was a millimeter away from being paralyzed, saying:  “The doctor said if my back wasn’t as strong as it was, it could have been worse.”  A Pro Bowl selection on special teams as a rookie, Knox maintained sensation in all his limbs after the incident and was able to walk the day after surgery, as he still can now, with full range of motion in his arms also.–“Catching up with Johnny Knox”, 2/4/15, Larry Mayer.

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”, 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″, 5/26/15, Terry Frei.

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”, 3/28/15, Bill Speltz.

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,” 9/26/14, CBS Los Angeles.

Wesley Walker

WESLEY WALKER, 60, wide receiver with the NY Jets, 1977-89, lives in pain every day.  One of the greatest receivers in Jets history with 438 catches, 8,308 yards receiving, 71 TDs, and an average of 19 yards per catch, he has had 6 football-related surgeries and says all the fame and money accrued from football were not worth it.  “I would have taken another path…Just from a physical standpoint, there is no way I would put my body through what I do now.  I don’t wish this on anybody.”  Walker was never diagnosed with a concussion but is certain he had a few.  He often gets lost while driving.  “I call it sleep driving.”  He’s had major back surgery with 10 screws and a plate inserted.  He’s had spinal fusion surgery on his neck with 14 screws, a plate and a cage used to stabilized him.  “I am in pain head to toe.  It’s very frustrating.  You want to cry sometimes.”–“Wesley Walker, former Jets great, wishes he had foresight to retire early, like Chris Borland: ‘I don’t wish this on anybody'”, 3/17/15, Gary Myers.

Kevin Boss

KEVIN BOSS, 31, tight end with the NY Giants, Oakland and Kansas City, 2007-12, sustained 5 concussions before retiring.  He wishes that he had the courage Chris Borland (SF) did to walk away before putting his body at even more risk.  Boss told Newsday, “He had the courage to make some really tough decisions.  When you’re in the game, you’re consumed by it and you don’t have the foresight to look ahead and really think about your future.  You’re just thinking that what you’re doing is the most significant thing there is.  As a young kid, you don’t have the wisdom to think about your long-term life.  Borland did.”  Boss was a key player during the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl run, stepping up as a rookie after starter Jeremy Shockey broke his leg.  An assistant coach for Summit High School’s (OR) football team, he does not have concussion symptoms three years after retiring.  “I can’t sit down and watch an NFL game like I used to.  All I see and all I hear is helmets crashing.  I’m often pointing out possible concussions.  ‘Hey, there’s a concussion there’ or ‘That guy is a little woozy.’ ”  Boss feels the league could still be doing a lot more to help NFL retirees struggling with medical problems from their playing career.  As for whether he would let his two sons play high school football, Boss said that he is “nervous” about the decision.  He’s talked with his wife about the internal “morality battle” at play in coaching kids in a sport that ended his career.  Still, he also called high school football “the best four years of your life,” and ultimately said he would relent and let his kids play if they were interested.–“Former Giant Kevin Boss praises Chris Borland’s decision, fears for his own long-term health”, 3/23/15, Nick Powell.



Adrian Robinson

ADRIAN ROBINSON, 25, linebacker with Pittsburgh, Denver, San Diego and Washington, 2012-13, committed suicide by hanging on 5/16/15 in Philadelphia.  The Harrisburg, PA, native was a 2-time all-state selection at Harrisburg HS and the MVP of the Big 33 Football Classic during his senior year.  As a sophomore at Temple, where he never missed a game in his college career, he was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year.  Robinson had signed to play in the CFL for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the upcoming season.–“Medical Examiner: Harrisburg football star Adrian Robinson killed himself”, 5/18/15, Eric Veronikis.