Clint Session

CLINT SESSION, 30, linebacker with Indianapolis and Jacksonville, 2007-12, suffered a concussion in a November 2011 game at Cleveland and, without telling anyone, decided to stay in the game, later suffering another concussion in the same game.  (He had also suffered a concussion in preseason.)  He was placed on injured reserve two days later and still hadn’t recovered by the start of the 2012 season, when he was placed on the physically unable to perform list.  “I think if I would have come out of the game on the first one, I probably would have been not in this situation that I’m in right now.  It was two back-to-back traumas…I do regret that.”  He tried to come back during the 2012 offseason, but couldn’t handle the combination of running and working out along with the classroom work.  “…it put a lot of strain on my mind and my brain wasn’t ready for all that.”  Session was seeing a concussion specialist in Jacksonville and another in a program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  Session was known as a big hitter.  “To me, it kind of comes with the game.  I like to hit.  I’m known for hitting.  Big part of why I’m in the NFL.  I don’t regret any hitting…I do regret the concussions.”  Session has not played since that November 2011 game.—“For Jaguars linebacker Clint Session, future is scary for this season and beyond”, The Florida Times Union, Jacksonville.com 7/28/12, Vic Stellino.

 

 

John Moffitt

JOHN MOFFITT, 28, guard with Seattle and Denver for 2.5 years, retired November 2013, citing health risks.  Though he had no history of concussions, the blows he sustained in practice and games concerned him.  “…I’m no longer willing to risk it.”—“John Moffitt walks away from NFL, $1 million”, AP 11/6/13, Arnie Stapleton.

Jacob Bell

JACOB BELL, 33, guard with Tennessee, the St. Louis Rams, and Cincinnati, 2004-12, retired in 5/12 because he feared for his long-term health in the wake of so many stories about the effects of concussions and other injuries, and cited the recent suicide of Junior Seau.  He played in 109 NFL games.  Bell had just signed a free-agent contract in April 2012 with Cincinnati.—“Cincinnati Bengals guard Jacob Bell retires”, NFL.com 5/8/12, referencing the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Frank Wycheck

FRANK WYCHECK, 43, tight end with Washington, the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, 1993-2003, retired because of concussions and fights migraine headaches and depression.  He played football from the age of 5 and remembers getting hit in the side of the head and seeing “flashes” at that age.  He says it’s impossible to know how many concussions he’s sustained, and with the face-to-face contact at the line of scrimmage “you are almost getting mild concussion every play in practice and games.”  He was knocked out on his last concussion in 2003 (yet played on that season).  “It’s a constant battle.  I had every symptom you can name, and for a long time.  It was very difficult to deal with.  You play head games with yourself.”—“John Mackey and other retired NFL players experience living hell”, SportingNews 7/7/11, Matt Crossman.  “Frank Wycheck says concussions are ‘reason I stopped’”, The Tennessean 10/19/12, interview with Jim Wyatt.

Brent Boyd

BRENT BOYD, 57, offensive lineman with Minnesota, 1980-86, hasn’t been able to work because of cognitive problems, depression and lethargy caused by on-field concussions.  While testifying before congress and describing the NFL’s reluctance to compensate former players for their suffering and medical bills, he coined the phrase “Delay, deny, and hope we die!”  He’s a board member of Dignity After Football, an organization that helps former NFL players obtain proper disability and pension benefits from the league.—“Reno resident, ex-NFL player Brent Boyd not happy with $765M concussion settlement”, Reno Gazette 8/29/13, Chris Murray.  “Lawmakers Urge the N.F.L. To Do More for Ex-Players”, NY Times 6/26/07, Alan Schwarz.

Dan Bunz

DAN BUNZ, 59, linebacker with San Francisco and Detroit, 1978-85, says he had “hundreds of concussions.”  Known for making the goal line tackle to save the 1982 Super Bowl victory for SF, the 2-time Super Bowl winner says he was once knocked out on the opening kickoff of a game in New York, yet played the whole first half “on remote control” and couldn’t remember the game.  He was diagnosed with short-term-memory deficit soon after retiring from the NFL and increasingly forgets things.  While playing, Bunz endured frequent cortisone shots for shoulder and hip injuries, and struggles to sit for long periods because of persistent hip pain.—“The Hollow Man”, sactown magazine February-March 2012.  “Toll of NFL head impact injuries worries Dan Bunz”, SF Chronicle 3/10/11, Ron Kroichick.

Sidney Rice

SIDNEY RICE, 27, wide receiver with Minnesota and Seattle, 2007-13, retired because of a history of concussions.  A member of Seattle’s 2013-4 Super Bowl champions, he suffered a concussion in Week 9 of the 2011 season that he re-aggravated 2 weeks later.  He estimates that he had 8 to 10 concussions during his NFL career.  His first concussion from football happened when he was 8 years old.  (Rice also suffered shoulder, foot and knee injuries, including a torn ACL.)  He’s announced he will donate his brain to science to further knowledge of brain injuries.—“Seattle Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice retiring from the NFL”, SeattlePi.com 7/23/14, Stephen Cohen.  “Sidney Rice and Steve Weatherford donate brains to science”, NBCsports.com 3/4/15, Darin Gantt.

John Abraham

JOHN ABRAHAM, 36, linebacker with Arizona, Atlanta and the New York Jets, 2000-2014, left the Arizona Cardinals on 9/10/14 after suffering another concussion in a 9/8 game, citing severe memory loss, which has affected him for well over a year.  He may not return.  He was arrested for DUI on 6/29/14 after officers found him asleep at the wheel at an intersection in Brookhaven, GA.  He refused to take an alcohol breath test.  Abraham has more sacks than any active player and has played in 192 games.—“LB John Abraham leaves Cardinals”, ESPN.com 9/10/14, Adam Schefter.

Concussion Stats & Effects

2010: 172 NFL concussions from training camp through the playoffs.–The Concussion Blog, December 2013, Dustin Fink.

 

NFL Concussion Totals by Season: 2011: 252.  2012: 261.  2013: 228.  These figures were released by Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior VP of health and safety policy, at the Super Bowl.—“NFL: 13 percent fewer concussions in ’13 than [20]’12”, NBC29.com 1/30/14, from AP.

 

One-third of all concussions were left off the NFL injury report for the 2012 and 2013 seasons (the figures in the above item include most of those).  Teams don’t release injury reports until Week 1 of the regular season, meaning most concussions from training camp are left off the list.  Also, teams don’t release injury reports after bye weeks or after their final games, both regular season or playoffs.  During the above 2 seasons, players returned to play almost half the time without missing a game, despite guidelines endorsed by the NFL Players Association from the American Academy of Neurology stating that athletes are at greatest risk of repeat injuries in the first 10 days post-concussion (the vast majority of games are played weekly).  The second half of both seasons accounted for 38 more concussions than the first half.  Dustin Fink, a certified athletic trainer who tracks head injuries on “The Concussion Blog”, says the increase can be explained by the repetitive nature of smaller, subconcussive hits.  “The theory is that the more of those you sustain, eventually you’re going to lower your threshold for having a concussion.”   Cornerbacks and wide receivers sustained the most concussions over these 2 seasons, followed by safeties, tight ends, and running backs and linebackers.—“What We’ve Learned From Two Years of Tracking NFL Concussions”, Frontline on pbs.org 2/4/14, Jason M. Breslow.

 

A 2005 study by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, based at UNC, of 2500 former NFL players, found that cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s-like symptoms and depression rose in direct proportion to the number of concussions a player had sustained.—NY Times.

 

Players who have suffered 3 or more concussions have a 5-fold risk for mild cognitive impairment and a 3-fold risk for permanent concussion.—Kevin Guskiewicz, UNC research director.

 

At the National Institute of Health, researchers have been successful treating concussed mice by passing an antioxidant called glutathione through their skulls immediately after a concussion, reducing brain tissue damage by nearly 70%.  MRIs have shown that concussed humans similarly leak from blood vessels lining the skull, which seep down and damage brain tissue, as happens in mice.—“Concussions”, SI The MMQB 4/28/14, Robert Klemko.

 

UCLA researchers believe they have identified tau in 5 living former NFL players, though they could not definitely determine the protein was tau.  The players were between the ages of 45 and 73, and had histories of mood and cognitive problems.  Brain scans showed a chemical marker that fastens to tangles of tau gathering in the amygdala and subcortical regions, the same areas where scientists have found tau during autopsies of patients who had CTE.  Researchers also found that a higher number of concussions correlated with a greater amount of chemical marker attachment, suggesting more buildup of the protein.  Scientists are still trying to determine how the presence of tau may trigger the development of CTE.  They are looking at the role of genetics in CTE, since many athletes and military veterans take repeated blows to the head and do not develop the condition.  One of the players studied, a former quarterback, appeared to have tau in his brain but showed only signs of aging and not CTE.—“Study finds clue to brain disorder—before death”, SF Chronicle 2013, Drew Joseph.

Ray Lucas

RAY LUCAS, 42, quarterback with New England, the NY Jets, Miami, and the Baltimore Ravens, 1996-2003, has spinal stenosis and had 7 back operations in less than 7 years.  Addicted when he retired, at one time he was taking 17 different types of prescription drugs, as his intake went from 100 to 400 to 800 pills per month.  Married with 3 daughters, he spent his NFL savings, lost his house and air conditioning business, and planned to commit suicide by driving or jumping off the George Washington Bridge (a gun owner, at another time he planned to shoot himself).  He put his wife, Cecy, through hell.  He had back spasms that caused him to shake so much that Cecy thought he’d developed Tourette’s.  Lucas had at least 12 concussions, a broken leg bone, sciatica, a ripped patella tendon, frayed elbow ligaments, and 2 severely herniated lumbar discs.  During a game while playing with Miami, his throwing shoulder popped out and was hanging down after a blindside hit.  Taken off the field for X-rays, he put the shoulder back in himself, and the team doctor barred him from returning.  Lucas claims that after the doctor left, Coach Dave Wannstedt and a trainer came to him and said they needed him to go back in because the backup quarterback wasn’t ready.  He was shot up, given pills and sent back into the game, and, not being able to feel his arm, threw 4 interceptions.  “…I wasn’t man enough to say no.”  Lucas played the next month in electric pain, then was waived by Wannstedt at season’s end.  Later, in retirement, while in deep desperation, he received a back-channels call from a former league physician, who told him to call PAST (Pain Alternatives Solutions and Treatments), a consortium of surgeons and specialists recruited by Doctor William Focazio who treat NFL veterans for free.  This saved his life.  On the initial exam his blood pressure was so high that any strain could have caused a stroke.  From 12 years of drug-taking, his heart size had doubled.  He has been treated, operated on, and is gradually improving medically, and has gone through drug rehab that included a gut-wrenching withdrawal.—“The NFL’s Secret Drug Problem”, Men’s Journal, November 2012, Paul Solotaroff.