Tag Archives: CTE

“The Tragic Loss of Raider Derrick Jensen & the Mounting List of Players ALS & CTE are Claiming”

Derrick_Jensen2

The nightmare continues.

When ESPN’s article on the money grab which is the brain injury lawsuit against the NFL came out recently, it showed just how little is being done for former NFL players struggling with head injuries. So far they have not seen one dime of the settlement money. With lawyers charging outrageous fees, and medical corporations and doctors practically targeting them, you wonder how much money the players will really see. The extreme greed is hard to watch.  The sad part is, more players are being diagnosed with ALS and CTE and many feel this is just the tip of the iceberg.

http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/19029607/billion-dollar-nfl-concussion-settlement-turns-nasty-lawyers-others-vie-pieces-payouts-players

Studies now show NFL players are 4-5 times more likely to get ALS than the regular public. The famous Italian soccer study showed Italian soccer players were 6 times more likely to get it. Severe forms of CTE are now feared to be a cause of ALS.  Former woman’s US soccer star Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain to CTE studies. The first MMA fighter has now been thought to have CTE. Even BMX legend Dave Mirra was shown to have CTE after his suicide at the age of 41.

Now present and former NHL players are coming out to talk about it.   If you thought the NFL was obtuse about head injuries, the NHL makes them look like Mother Theresa. They sued to block their emails dating back to as much as 10 years ago trying to block studies on the effects of concussions partly because they didn’t want to limit fighting.

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl-doctor-slams-situational-ethics-on-concussions-in-unsealed-lawsuit-documents-1.708729

Last month the NFL world was shocked and dismayed to hear that former 49er great Dwight Clark was diagnosed with ALS. Alabama great Kevin Turner; an 8 year veteran of the NFL; died last year at 46 from ALS. He was one of the key witnesses in the CTE trials v.s. the NFL. His brain was later studied and he was found to have severe CTE damage. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2010.

Raiders stud FB Steve Smith has been battling ALS for 15 years. And sadly the Raiders and Seattle families lost a valuable person last week in Derrick Jensen.

I still remember Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last March saying he personally still didn’t think there was a link to head injuries, concussions and CTE.   That’s what players are up against.

Mark Davis & Reggie McKenzie honoring Derrick Jensen
Mark Davis & Reggie McKenzie honor former Raider Derrick Jensen before Seattle Seahawks game

Derrick Jensen Loses His Battle With ALS:

http://www.raiders.com/news/article-1/Raiders-Mourn-the-Passing-of-Derrick-Jensen/ca64a3e6-8b9d-4ceb-8815-1a93ad9ba9d0

Raiders super sub and special teams captain Derrick Jensen lost his battle with ALS last week after being diagnosed in 2012. Jensen was 60. He was a key member of the Raiders and won 2 Super Bowls. In the first 5 minutes of Super Bowl XVIII, Derrick blocked a Washington punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown that set the tone for a huge win against a team that most in the media at that time was calling the best ever.   I remember pretty much going insane as a kid when it happened.

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Davis & Derrick Jensen

Derrick was a solid and valuable player, but he also was a long time respected scout for the Seattle Seahawks with over 2 decades of amazing evaluations.   He was beloved for his kindness and respect towards people. He was eclectic and fun and went out of his way to just say hi to Seattle staffers.   You would be hard pressed to find a more loved guy. His death was a great loss to the NFL. The Seahawks have renamed their draft room in his honor. Sadly Derrick lost his wife Amanda in 2009 in a car accident and now his 19 y/o son Davis (in honor of Al? I don’t know) must go on without his parents.

http://www.seahawks.com/news/2017/04/07/seahawks-remember-longtime-scout-derrick-jensen

A 5-Star Must Read Book on Players & Their Families Fighting CTE:

Many are reading this book in one sitting.  If you want to get a raw, in depth look at what players & families go through with CTE, read Cyndy Feasel’s book “After the Cheering Stops”. Her late husband Grant Feasel; a former Seattle Seahawk OL; was struck by CTE and this story is an amazing one. I can’t recommend this book enough. Grant sadly, was far from being the only one.  RIP Grant.

http://afterthecheeringstops.com/

NFL Royalty Now Struggling:

When Ken Stabler’s partner Kim Ross-Bush came out talking about the CTE symptoms that Ken was suffering from, it seemed that more people started to listen.   Sadly, the list of players struggling continues to grow.

Cowboys great Tony Dorsett has done several national interviews talking about his battle with depression, mood swings and extreme memory loss.  Ex-Raider/Eagle/49er RB Charlie Garner says he can’t go anywhere without someone coming with him because he forgets where his car is & has trouble in conversations.

NFL Royalty and super man Gale Sayers barely talks anymore.  One of the most articulate and smart people in NFL history, can no longer remember some people or even carry on simple conversations.

http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/9931754/former-nfl-stars-tony-dorsett-leonard-marshall-joe-delameilleure-show-indicators-cte-resulting-football-concussions

Detroit Lion legend Mel Farr died in 2015 and it was shown he had severe CTE which he suspected.  At one time Mel had the largest African American owned company in the U.S.

Frank Wycheck, Mike Adamle, and so many others are now saying they are afraid of what lies ahead with their symptoms.  Raider great George Atkinson says it’s hitting him as well and Phil Villapiano says it’s the scary thing everyone is talking about.  Their memories fading, while their thoughts get lost in a fog.

http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/18585718/former-detroit-lions-rb-mel-farr-had-stage-3-cte-died-2015

These aren’t dumb football players folks. These are smart, articulate, and successful men who contributed great things to the NFL and they are now losing their faculties. AND STILL, no support from the NFL.

The NFL Needs a Wake Up Call:

http://www.myajc.com/sports/football/fate-dwight-clark-gale-sayers-reaffirm-nfl-not-doing-enough/oh3s4BqtAVhI6nye7XQbEN/

People have changed in our country and some leave their brains at the door.  If some belong to a political party, love a football team or belong to an organization, they will blindly defend it no matter what.  Right and wrong no longer matters to them.  It’s like they take it personally if someone questions what they are a part of.  It’s pathetic and insecure to be honest.  You can’t fix problems unless you admit them.

The NFL see’s that same phenomena.  “Don’t be a hater, don’t be negative; you are a troll”. It’s like a bunch of cult members are walking around saying question nothing. To admit a terrible mistake by something they belong to or like is out of the question.

“I’m loyal from the crib to the grave. Win lose or tie, loyal til I die”. These are sayings that are seen often in fan groups of all NFL teams.   Unfortunately the league, the teams, and the owners don’t feel the same. They will move to another city without a worry, buy off politicians and not support the players that made them rich while not thinking twice about it. Their goal is one thing; make more money.  Some NFL fans are the abused spouses of the sporting world and they don’t even know it; enabling the NFL to the end blindly defending anything they do, or fail to do.

Cheerleaders had to sue to get minimum wage and the overwhelming support in social media was for the NFL. The names these women were called by some male fans on social media shouldn’t be repeated. The Ref’s were destroyed by fans for wanting to be full time employees with full time training and salaries. This would greatly improve the calls in games and improve the integrity of the game. Sadly the “cash strapped” NFL said they couldn’t afford to pay them full time. Most fans backed the NFL and told refs to get other jobs if you don’t like it.

The treatment of the retired players is worse. Our society has lost it’s ability to be compassionate, especially to elderly people. If I wrote a story about Derek Carr giving someone a ride, I’d get thousands of readers an hour. Talk about the sad demise of a great player from the past and the numbers drop significantly with a yawn. It’s too sad and no one wants to bother.

What Can We Do:

It will take maturity and confidence from fans to create change. First, we can listen. We can listen to the players and their families.   We can support them by complaining to the league and owners in social media or in actually writing letters that we need to respect them and their needs. A little bit of effort goes a long way. The NFL was going to do nothing in the Ray Rice case until fans were outraged when TMZ proved them to be liars.

The NBA had a known racist, Donald Sterling as an owner.  They knew and supported him for years through his racist actions and rants.  They defended him until a video came out that was seen by fans.  The outrage was epic and public opinion forced the NBA to get rid of him.  Professional leagues morals are based on money & public opinion.

We can also support pages, stories and the players themselves.   Instead of putting up that 1000th team meme or 5000th cat photo on Facebook, teach yourself and/or your kids about the history of the teams and the great players from the past. These players sacrificed a great deal to play football and many were extremely loyal to the cities and fans.  Some became integral parts of the community with many living and dying in the area they played in. We need to stop acting like 18 y/o gang members and respect all players from all teams. You can hate a team or player in fun but remember we are all in this game called life, and that is much more important than any football rivalry or team loyalty.

What is happening to retired players is unacceptable and we need to be the answer. You can still love football and the players in it while not condoning some of the actions of the NFL and the owners. The NFL’s actions show it is loyal to one thing; money. It is their god. Well it’s not mine. They are not loyal to players, fans, cheerleaders, cities and even the refs.   I’m not letting ANY corporation or person use me or disrespect me, and you shouldn’t either. Look at their actions, and not the words. Love the game, and the teams and players but be respectful of what’s going on.  And if we are as loyal and respectful to the game as we say, let’s make a difference and show the NFL that the sport is about the people in it, and not the profit from it.

“Ken Stabler Leading Teammates in CTE Fight Even After His Passing; Should Kids Play Football?”

 

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Ken Stabler Being Helped off the Field During Game

Friday it was released that several former Oakland Raiders had agreed to have their brains studied upon their death.  They did this through the encouragement of Ken’s longtime partner, Kim Ross-Bush.  They wanted to follow him in helping to further the study of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in the hopes of helping future players.  Still today, Ken still is the leader of the dynasty that was the 1970’s Oakland Raiders.

The Stabler Family Tells Their Story:

Kim Ross-Bush, the partner of Ken Stabler for over 16 years; tells the story of how Ken deteriorated over time.  His daughter Marissa also talks about the changes in her father.  ESPN’s Outside the Lines is a great show and I really enjoyed the piece it did a while back on Ken and his struggles with CTE.

You are already seeing players starting to retire at earlier ages in fear of the long term damage football may have on them.

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/14703416/outside-lines-nfl-great-ken-stabler-diagnosed-cte-death

Eliminate Tackling in Practice:

In a groundbreaking move, the Ivy League coaches voted to eliminate tackling in practices.  Instead they use tackling dummies, bags, and even use tackling robots.  Coaches from around the country are limiting contact in College football.  What’s interesting is the Ivy league now says their tackling techniques are much better and more fundamentally sound and the list of injuries have dropped dramatically.

http://www.ncaa.com/news/football/article/2016-03-04/college-football-ivy-league-limits-tackling-football-practices

My Experience With CTE:

I remember in 2009 being asked to do a house call to check up on a patient who was really struggling with his sleep equipment and his quality of sleep.  I immediately remembered the name.  I’m a huge history guy and I did a check and found out it was the former NFL player that I thought it was.

When I walked into their house his wife was as kind as could be.  She offered me a piece of cake and coffee and I loved it.  Her husband was a little shocked I knew so much about him and it obviously made him feel good.  When I left his wife walked me out.  At the door she gave me a bottle of wine and was near tears.  “Thank you so much; you made him smile and that hasn’t happened much.  Please come visit again soon”.  I told her I would be by next week.

A week later I showed up and it was like a light turned off.  He sat in a somewhat dark room looking out a window; something he did for hours sometimes.  He was rude, irritable and he couldn’t remember a thing we discussed.  I laughed at the start because I thought he was teasing me but he wasn’t.  He talked about his headaches and his sleep being so intermittent that he would be exhausted all the time.  It was hinted he knew he was damaged and he didn’t want to know the truth.  CTE was barely known publicly in 2009.

His wife explained this was their life.  A tornado of emotions with little joy and hope at times.  I tried calling them once but their number had changed & was unlisted, so I never heard from them again and found out they moved. Even today the picture of him sitting in a darkened room alone can bring me to tears.

Owners Still Don’t Get It:

Jerry Jones was quoted last week that he was not convinced there was a link between CTE and concussions.  I’m sure many owners have their doubts especially when it may cost them money to take care of the problem.  Jerry Jones needs to read research and stop acting like a fool.  Another “my opinion is greater than facts” guy.  Money doesn’t make you smart.  It’s the same callousness the NFL showed during the 2009 concussion hearings at Congress.

In the 2014 settlement against the NFL, in a rare action, the Judge was so appalled at the NFL’s offer that he overturned it.  The NFL said to trust their math.  Most of what the NFL has done, they were made to do.

What Has the NFL Done to Help With CTE’s:

Many say I’m too hard on the NFL.  They bring up the 88 plan championed by CTE legend Gay Culverhouse, former President of Tampa Bay.  It’s true; it gives $130,000 a year to players that qualify but read the fine print because I did; the one disorder it DOESN’T cover?  CTE.

The Alumni Association is also working with corporations to set up retirement places catered to NFL players.  In the medical field the dirty secret is that many feel this is going to be a huge money maker in the future with so many NFL players having to deal with brain issues.  Soccer players are now having issues with CTE.  Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain as well.

The owners have given money for research and also changed the rules protecting players more.  It has changed the game drastically allowing for huge numbers by quarterbacks and wide receivers but it had to be done.

The NFL also has adopted a much stricter concussion protocol but it’s already seen failures.  Rams QB Case Keenum hit his head on the turf against Baltimore last year and staggered off the field.  After talking to the trainer, he was shockingly let back in the game to finish it.  Afterwards he was diagnosed with a concussion.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to his credit admitted they made a mistake.  Damage done though.

I remember watching film of the 1976 Raiders year in review.  In week 9 the Raiders played at Chicago.  The astroturf there was like cement especially when it was cold.  Ken Stabler got a concussion and wobbled off the field.  Eventually he came back into the game leading the Raiders to victory.  You wonder how many times since he was a kid did that happen to Ken.

Breakthrough in CTE Testing?

The problem with CTE is that you can’t diagnose it while the player is alive.  When UCLA lead researcher Dr. Julian Bailes said they had a test that could diagnose CTE in living people, many questioned his findings.  The problem with anything in medicine is greed.  If this is true, they stand to make millions.  Some say that within 3-5 years it will be able to be done. The controversy continues but when they can test players, it can give them a better option into getting out of the game or staying in it.

Should Kid’s Play Football:

One of the key factors with CTE is the duration you take hits.  Usually the longer you play, the worse it is.  Ken Stabler; like many NFL athletes; played as a kid.  You have to limit the length, and the severity of the damage.  Some think teaching good fundamental tackling is the answer but it’s not.  When you hit the ground or get hit; good tackle or not; your head is going to jar.  Its’ like having a minor car accident several times a day.

I think that kids should not play organized tackle football until they are 13 years old.  I also believe that at the most, teams need to have only 1 contact day of practice per week; or 90 minutes.

The State of Texas that brought you “Friday Night Lights” and built a 60 million dollar stadium in the city of Allen, is surprisingly the leader in protecting players.  In 2013, the University Interscholastic League in Texas; the group that makes the rules for high school football; voted to limit contact in practices to 90 minutes a week.  Some said this would ruin Texas football but it hasn’t changed their dominance in any way.

Between 2005 and 2014, 92 high school football players died.  Some by direct contact, and others by things associated with football.  What’s shocking though is that almost ALL states have NO medical regulations mandating high school football teams to have ANY trained medical staff on the field at any time.  Some parents have sued school districts for having their kids lying on a field waiting long periods of time for qualified people to help their kids.  That HAS to change.  They don’t have to have an ambulance on staff, or a doctor or EMT’s or professional trainers.  Epic fail.  This has to change.

I remember in football crazy Napa, California where I grew up, (who ESPN voted had the #2 high school stadium in the country 6 years ago) they always had an ambulance in one of the end zones at Memorial Stadium and EMT professionals at the games.  It helped save one of my friends who actually broke his neck during a game.  He wasn’t paralyzed but he fractured his neck and the quality care on the field saved him.  I hope they still have that same support there now.

Final Thoughts:

The sad part is, we need to have a sure way of diagnosing players while they are alive, and we need to know how better to protect them.  Even if helmets evolved, the jarring of the brain from the hits and hitting the ground are still going to cause damage so it’s a difficult thing to fix.

What also is scary, is that ALS; or Lou Gehrigs disease has also been linked to long term head trauma seen in sports like football.  University of Alabama player Kevin Turner just passed away at the age of 46; of ALS.  He played 8 years in the NFL.

CTE is the scary ghost hiding in the closet that players and their families fear.  Fans and the media need to get involved.  Some didn’t support the cheerleaders fight to get minimum wage.  Many fans didn’t support referees wanting better training and to be full time employees.  The NFL said both were too expensive.  Add the lack of support to retired players by some as well.  In my mind it’s disrespecting the game and those that are associated with it by not respecting everyone that was in it.

All fans and media people associated with the NFL who really care about this wonderful game and the people in it need to act.  Some in the NFL media won’t because they feel backlash from their networks.  We need the NFL to know the lack of support is unacceptable.  The 88 plan needs to include CTE.  Support research and retired players rights.  Show compassion and kindness instead of saying, “well if they don’t want to die early then don’t play”.  The players gave their all; now we need to give ours.

The NFL has shown they will NOT do the right thing unless they are made to.  It’s time that fans now become the voices of the voiceless.  Ken Stabler and all of the players that suffered in silence; along with their families that experienced it; deserve our support.  No more Dave Duerson stories.  A man that texted family to let them know he wanted his brain studied after he shot himself in the chest.  He didn’t want others to go through the torment he did.  No more retired players holding their heads in pain or looking out windows in darkened rooms wondering in sadness what was happening to them.  We can’t expect the NFL to do the right thing to these fathers, son’s, grandfathers and brothers, if we don’t.  The NFL has shown it will listen but we have to speak.