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.
BERNIE KOSAR, 50, quarterback with Cleveland, Dallas and Miami, 1985-96, has publicly talked about how head injuries sustained during his NFL career have affected his speech, making him sometimes slur his words. He has also been addicted to pain medications, gone through a divorce, and had financial troubles.—9/13 AP article about his arrest for speeding while driving under the influence. 4/25/14 Update: Kosar believes he’s been unfairly sacked as a color commentator for Cleveland’s preseason games and contends he’s been removed because of slurred speech he attributes to “a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL…Being able to share these preseason games with my fellow Cleveland Browns fans is truly one of the remaining joys in my life.”—SF Chronicle 4/25/14.
PEYTON MANNING, 38, 15-year veteran quarterback formerly with Indianapolis and currently with Denver, admitted in an ESPN.com interview to intentionally scoring low on his baseline concussion tests so it would be easier to get clearance to play after a concussion. The Super Bowl Champion and 5-time NFL MVP said, “So I just try to do badly on the first test.” Interviewer Rick Reilly said that Manning was not joking. Given his enormous fame and status in the game, his statement could influence kids and young men to do the same, putting them at risk for Second Impact Syndrome, which can be fatal. Among NFL players, Manning is not alone in using this ruse. Manning had multiple neck surgeries to extend his career.—“Peyton Manning admits to tanking baseline concussions tests”, NBCsports.com 4/27/11, posted by Mike Florio.
“It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems.”—Greg Aiello, NFL Senior VP/PR, to the NY Times in 11/09, quoted in “Pain Point”, Bloomberg Businessweek 2/4-2/10/13, Paul M. Barrett.
“30 years from now, I don’t think pro football will be in existence.”—Bernard Pollard, Baltimore safety, to CBS Sports, quoted in Businessweek above.
“I knew there was something wrong with his mind. Ray knew. If nothing else, we need to make sure the players and their wives know what they’re getting into.”—RAY EASTERLING’s wife of 36 years, Mary Ann, who found the former Atlanta safety, 62, dead with a gun nearby. An autopsy showed signs of CTE. Easterling played for Atlanta, 1972-79. (Businessweek above.)
2000 American Academy of Neurology findings based on a survey of 1094 former NFL players: “51% had been knocked unconscious more than once, 73% of those injured said they were not required to sit on the sidelines after head trauma, and 31% subsequently had difficulty with memory.” (Businessweek above.)