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.
JAMES ARLINE, 17, senior linebacker with Newburgh Free Academy, fell ill shortly after an October 1992 road game and died of a stroke. It was uncertain whether it was related to a blow suffered in the game.–NewYorkSportswriters.org 3/16/15.
NATHANIEL BRUMMETT, 14, freshman running back/defensive lineman with Coal Grove HS (OH), fractured cervical vertebrae on a routine play in practice in early September 2014. Commonly known as a broken neck, the injury spurred the release of a blood clot that caused a stroke a few minutes later. His mother, Brooke, said, “He’s a walking miracle…He is walking with no assistance and shows no signs of having any long-term ill effects. It’s remarkable considering after the injury he had full paralysis on his left side; his face was drooped and his arm drawn in…Both teams of doctors—the one dealing with his stroke and the one dealing with his neck—said they can’t remember someone recovering so fully so quickly.” He never lost his memory or mental abilities and will be able to play sports, just not football. Brummett still faces spinal fusion surgery.—“A walking miracle”, IrontonTribune.com 11/27/14, Brandon Roberts.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody granted preliminary approval to a deal that would compensate thousands of former NFL players for concussion-related claims. The deal came after the NFL agreed to remove a $675 million cap on overall damages. A payout formula would award $5 million to a young retiree with ALS, $1.6 million to a 50-year-old with Alzheimer’s, and $25,000 to an 80-year-old with early dementia. More than 4,500 former players have filed suit.—“Judge approves deal for care of ex-players”, SF Chronicle 7/18/14, from AP. 9/12/14 Update: According to actuarial data released by the NFL, nearly 3 in 10 former players will develop at least moderate neurocognitive problems and qualify for payments from the settlement detailed above. The actuary expects 14% of all former players to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and 14% to develop moderate dementia over the next 65 years. There are more than 19,000 former living players still living, meaning nearly 6,000 of them will fall into those 2 groups. Another 31 will be diagnosed with ALS and 24 with Parkinson’s disease during their lives. The actuary estimated that former players were at twice the risk for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS as the general population between the ages of 20 and 60. Critics lament that the settlement plan offers no awards to anyone diagnosed with CTE in the future, and that Alzheimer’s and dementia awards are cut 75% for players who also suffered strokes. The plan would pay up to $5 million for players with ALS, $4 million for deaths involving CTE, $3.5 million for Alzheimer’s, and $3 million for dementia and other neurocognitive problems. However, only men under 45 who spent at least 5 years in the league would get those maximum payouts. The awards are reduced, on a sliding scale, if the players played fewer years or were diagnosed at a more advanced age.—“Data: 3 in 10 face cognitive woes”, ESPN.com 9/12/14, from AP.
RUSSELL ALLEN, 28, linebacker with Jacksonville, 2009-13, suffered a concussion and a stroke on 12/15/13 in a game against Buffalo and retired on 4/22/14. He has a small dead spot on his cerebellum, which controls motor movement, exhibits coordination problems and has struggled to pick up and grip hand-held objects. He will be on blood-thinning medication for the rest of his life. Allen ran into Buffalo center Eric Wood and felt woozy afterward, as he had about 10 times in his career. “It was strange because it was so routine…If it feels like something’s wrong, something’s wrong. I want someone to know my experience, so they can know when they experience something similar…I felt something flash—like they say when you get your bell rung. I didn’t lose consciousness. I walked back to the huddle and finished the drive.” He later began having double vision on the sideline, but did not inform team trainers. He completed playing the game, nearly a half of football. He had never missed a regular-season game in high school, college or the NFL. He had a headache after the game and when he woke up the next day, at which time he informed the team. In the months after his stroke diagnosis, the last of 3 neurosurgeons to examine him advised him to quit playing football. Allen had suffered a carotid artery dissection, a tear in the layers of the artery wall that supplies oxygen to the brain. He’d been cut on 4/17/14 by Jacksonville, the official reason listed as a failed physical.—“Report: Jags’ Allen retires after in-game stroke”, AP, MMQB.si.com 4/22/14, Robert Klemko.
TEDY BRUSCHI, 41, linebacker with New England, 1996-2008, suffered a stroke on 2/16/05, just days after playing in the Pro Bowl. The 3-time Super Bowl champion and San Francisco native had a congenital heart defect called a patent foramen ovale, which leaves a small hole in the wall separating the left and right atria in the heart. He experienced temporary numbness, blurred vision, and headaches. After months of rehab, Bruschi became the first player to continue playing in the NFL after a stroke, playing 4 more seasons.—“Bruschi to sit out 2005”, Patriots.com 7/20/05, Paul Perillo.