ALEX PIERSCIONEK, 19, defensive lineman with South Elgin HS (IL), blacked out after a head-on collision with an offensive lineman and woke up hours later in an emergency room. He had collapsed on the field and was airlifted to the hospital, events he does not remember. He has suffered from headaches, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Pierscionek is suing the Illinois High School Association in an effort to protect future student athletes from concussions.–“Parents face difficult decision when it comes to football and their kids”, Newsday.com 8/10/15, John M. Crisp, Tribune News Service. “Suit Tackles Risk of Concussion in High School Football”, NBCnews.com 5/24/15, John Yang.
HERSCHEL WALKER, 53, running back with Dallas, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and NY Giants, 1986-97, has said that he played Russian Roulette with a gun more than once. “If you came to my home, and you wanted to challenge me at … anything, I didn’t think you were worthy enough … I would take a bullet, put it in a cylinder, spin it, tell you to pull it … People said, ‘Herschel, you’re nuts.’ [When] they walked away, I’d take that gun, put it to my head and snap it … I was so fired up that I could overcome anything. And I think that’s what it was. I didn’t realize that it was from … all that anger that I had, that I didn’t like myself. I was not even happy with who I was.” He also said he was so mad at a delivery man who was late that he wanted to kill him. The Heisman Trophy winner then saw a bumper sticker on the delivery truck that said “Jesus Loves You,” and decided to get help. Walker was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). “I talk about it now because there are still people out there today that are suffering. There’s guys in the league [NFL] that I’ve helped so much, that I’ve saved their lives.” Walker is a cousin of the late Philadelphia safety Andre Waters, who committed suicide in 2006 at 44 by shooting himself in the head.–“Herschel Walker details struggles with mental health, says he played Russian roulette”, MSN.com 6/18/15, Avery Stone, from an interview on ESPN’s Highly Questionable.
DARRYL TALLEY, 54, linebacker with Buffalo, Atlanta and Minnesota, 1983-96, has told The Buffalo News that he is suffering from depression and has contemplated suicide in what he considers side-effects from his hard-hitting playing days. A key player on the Buffalo teams that went to 4 consecutive Super Bowls, he says he’s had too many concussions to count and at least 75 times he saw flashes of light after being hit. He has memory loss, trouble sleeping, and lives in constant pain as a result of 14 operations he had during his playing days to repair various injuries. Financially, Talley has had trouble making ends meet since the company he owned closed in 2008 and has received financial assistance from former teammates. “It would be easy to call it a day…I’m convinced I’m not dead yet. But the future doesn’t look bright.”—“Former Bills star Talley suffers from depression”, AP NFL website 11/28/14. 11/29/14 Update: According to ESPN.com, within 2 days of Talley’s press conference Buffalo Bills fans had raised over $100,000 to help him. Contributions can be made at http://www.gofundme.com/hvkgjo
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.
LAWSUIT Against NFL: Eight ex-players have filed a lawsuit against the NFL in federal court in San Francisco, claiming the league administered drugs illegally, without obtaining prescriptions, keeping records, or warning of possible side effects. More than 500 former players have signed on to the lawsuit, seeking class-action status for the case. Some players say they were never told they had broken legs or ankles, and were instead fed pills to mask the pain so they could play in games, sometimes after being held out of practice. Others say that after years of free pills from the NFL, they retired addicted to painkillers. Former Buffalo and Detroit wide receiver J.D. Hill, a plaintiff, was given “uppers, downers, painkillers, you name it…Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL.” Hill became homeless and addicted. Three of the plaintiffs were members of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears: Jim McMahon, Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne. McMahon says he suffered a broken neck and ankle during his career, was given medication and pushed back onto the field without any recovery time, having never been told about the injuries by team doctors and trainers. He believes the broken neck happened in 1993 when his legs went numb after a hit. He also became addicted to painkillers, at one point taking more than 100 Percocet pills per month, even in the offseason. McMahon says he was in such pain that he considered suicide, and now suffers from dementia. Van Horne played an entire season on a broken leg and wasn’t told about the injury for 5 years, “during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain.” He also received injections of numbing agents and often wasn’t told what they were. Van Horne says he now suffers from multiple heart ailments. Dent developed a dependency on painkillers as a player and suffers from an enlarged heart and nerve damage that are linked to his medication. McMahon and Dent said the team kept methamphetamines freely available in the locker room. Ron Pritchard says amphetamines were available in jars in the Houston Oilers’ locker room. Former SF offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry says that because of drugs he took while playing he suffers from Stage 3 kidney failure, high blood pressure, and violent headaches. Newberry and fellow lineman Ron Stone described being part of a line among as many as fifteen 49ers players to receive powerful anti-inflammatory injections of Toradol in their buttocks shortly before kickoff. Newberry says, “The guideline recommendations for Toradol say you’re not supposed to take Toradol while you’re on any other anti-inflammatory, and I was always on another anti-inflammatory. You’re not supposed to take it more than 5 consecutive times—I’ve taken probably close to a couple hundred shots of it in my career.” Newberry says team doctors gave him a clean bill of health every year and never told him that his kidneys were starting to fail in 2004, 2005 (he played for SF from 1998-2006 and last played in the NFL in 2008). The suit claims the NFL has ignored its own task force on Toradol, since a group of NFL doctors, citing warnings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, recommended in 2012 that Toradol not be used before “collision sports such as football,” because of potential bleeding and other risks. Though some teams have restricted or eliminated use of the drug since then, the lawsuit claims the league “continues to look the other way.” Others described a post-game ritual with trainers handing out painkillers and sleeping aids “to be washed down by beer.” The lawsuit charges team doctors with disregarding American Medical Association ethics standards that require considering their patients’ welfare above their employers’ financial interests.—“Ex-players sue NFL over use of painkillers”, AP on Comcast 5/20/14, Barry Wilner. “Doping ‘a ritual’ in NFL, suit says”, SF Chronicle 5/21/14, Bob Egelko. “KNBR CONVERSATION With Jeremy Newberry”, an edited transcript of which appeared in the SF Chronicle 5/25/14, interviewed by Gary Radnich & Kate Scott.
Dozens of former players joining a lawsuit against the NFL say teams kept handing out powerful painkillers and other drugs with few—if any—safeguards as recently as 2012. That extends by 4 years the time frame for similar claims made in the original complaint and could open the door to a criminal investigation. “On flights home, the routine was the same everywhere,” said Brett Romberg, who played center for Jacksonville, St. Louis and Atlanta from 2003-11. “The trainers walked up and down the aisle and you’d hold up your hand with a number of fingers to show how many pills you wanted. No discussions, no questions. You just take what they hand you and believe me, you’ll take anything to dull the pain.” These new allegations could expand the scope of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s investigation. The statute of limitations on federal drug laws is 5 years.—“NFL-related lawsuits keep coming”, SF Chronicle Staff and News Services, 7/19/14.
TONY DORSETT, 60, running back with Dallas and Denver in the National Football League (NFL), 1977-88, has been diagnosed as having signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease with no known cure. The Hall of Famer suffers from memory loss, clinical depression, gets lost, has trouble controlling his anger, and has had thoughts of suicide.
JOE DeLAMIELLEURE, 63, a guard with Buffalo and Cleveland, 1973-85, has been diagnosed as having CTE. The Hall of Famer suffers from anxiety, depression, chronic insomnia, mood swings and suicidal thoughts. He believes he’s had over 100 concussions. He believes the facemask made the helmet a weapon. He’s fighting for healthcare from the NFL.