DANIEL BRETT, 16, junior varsity linebacker with Cypress Bay HS (FL), committed suicide on 5/14/11 after being diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and suffering from ‘migraine-type headaches’ and depression. He began playing football at 11 and never complained and never told anyone when he was hurt until August 24, 2009. “Coach, I can’t see,” Daniel finally confessed and later acknowledged he had been hit head-on and taken quite a few blows that left him seeing stars. Brett regularly saw a neurologist, was on anti-seizure/migraine medication, visited a chiropractor, and even tried acupuncture. Nothing helped his chronic headaches, growing depression, sluggishness, and apathy. His value judgments and behaviors deteriorated as he tried in vain to alleviate his pain through self-medication. Psychiatrists at one hospital prescribed anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications geared to treat his depression, but they, just like all the numerous well-intentioned medical professionals in Broward County, never followed a process to also treat his injured brain. Doctors from the University of Miami’s Concussion Program said that Brett had suffered multiple concussions. He was an amazing young man with a kind heart, a love for life, music, friends and family, and a zest for football. From March to May 2011, Brett’s quality of life improved greatly due to the correct diagnoses and treatment by the doctors at the University of Miami’s Concussion Program. But it was too late. Brett was not found to have CTE, but did have in his brain tissue an abnormal build-up of tau protein, which is found in brains with CTE. In 2011 Brett’s family incorporated The Daniel Brett Foundation, Inc. as a non-profit 501 (3) (c) organization and worked to get Florida’s Concussion Law passed in April 2012, which was dedicated to Daniel.–“Daniel Brett’s Legacy Donor Page”, Sports Legacy Institute, Diana Pilar Brett, Daniel’s mother.
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”, ScienceDaily.com 5/18/15.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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'”, NYDailynews.com 3/17/15, Gary Myers.
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”, NJ.com 3/23/15, Nick Powell.
JACK MILLER, senior center with Michigan, 2012-14, retired from college football in March 2015 because of the threat of long-term mental health issues caused by concussions. “I know I’ve had a few and it’s nice walking away before things could’ve gotten worse,” Miller told ESPN. “And yes, multiple schools have reached out. But I’m ready to walk away from it. My health and happiness is more important than a game.” Miller said he’d suffered one concussion in high school and “probably” another two or three at Michigan, though he added–in echoes of Clint Trickett’s recent retirement–he’d only reported one to the Wolverines’ trainers. He started all 12 Michigan games in 2014, earning the Hugh R. Rader Memorial Award as the team’s best offensive lineman. But given Miller’s business plans outside of football and his first-hand experience of the concussion issue–not only his own, but the firestorm surrounding Michigan’s handling of quarterback Shane Morris’s head injury vs. Minnesota in September 2014–it’s a decision college football can expect more players to make.–CBSSports.com 3/25/15, Jerry Hinnen.
RIDGE BARDEN, 16, defensive tackle with John C Birdlebough HS (NY), died on 10/14/11 after suffering a subdural hematoma, a brain bleed, in a game. Teenagers are especially susceptible to having multiple hits to the head result in brain bleeds and massive swelling, largely because the brain tissue has not yet fully developed. According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, Barden was the 13th high school player to die from a brain injury sustained on a football field since 2005 and the third in 2011. Including college and youth football players, there have been 18 fatalities from 2005 to 2011. Barden had no history of head trauma and showed no concussion symptoms, his coaches and father said. The Cortland County coroner’s office said the autopsy showed no evidence of a pre-existing problem. A review of game video showed no extraordinary hit that incapacitated Barden. The coaching staff deduced that the critical blow was sustained on Barden’s second-to-last play, a routine collision with an opposing lineman at the line of scrimmage. But Barden appeared to be fine as he prepared for the next play. At first, after collapsing, he was groggy but responsive and coherent, head coach Jeff Charles said. Barden told his coach that he had sustained a helmet-to-helmet hit and that his head hurt. Barden rolled over on his back then sat up on his own, but his condition quickly deteriorated. He began moaning and closing his eyes. When asked to stand up, he tried but immediately collapsed. The emergency technicians planned to take Barden to University Hospital in Syracuse, about 45 minutes away, but they rerouted when Barden went into cardiac arrest. While the crew performed CPR, the ambulance drove three minutes to Cortland Medical Center instead. When Barden’s father and grandmother arrived from Phoenix, NY, the doctor told them he was dying and only CPR was keeping him alive. At 10:18 p.m., less than two hours after the seemingly ordinary play at the 6-yard line, Barden was pronounced dead. Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Boston University and a leading expert in sports-related head injuries, said that in cases similar to Barden’s, in which the person was conscious right after the hit before quickly deteriorating, he had discovered that the subdural hematoma was not the cause of death but rather massive brain swelling. And in many cases the condition began with a previous hit and a second impact was the lethal blow. He could not comment on Barden’s specific case without examining his brain. Barden was a straight-A student who would walk a long way from home to school for voluntary workouts in the summer. His last game was his first start with the varsity team. The community was left wondering what could have been done differently. Coach Charles contemplated whether he could return to coaching football. His team’s last game of the season was canceled. Barden’s father, Jody, said he had no objection to the sport in the wake of his son’s death. “I just don’t want a negative spin on this. There is no blame in this. I don’t want to scare kids from playing the game. Ridge loved playing the game, and I know he wouldn’t want it to get a bad name.”–“An Ordinary Football Game, Then a Player Dies”, NY Times 10/19/11, Jorge Castillo.