By: Allan Siegel
Four former NFL football players took charge of their neurological health by volunteering in a UCLA study, which tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This condition is linked to the terrible symptoms suffered by many former NFL players, notably Junior Seau who took his life in May, 2012.
CTE is a degenerative brain disease which can cause depression, anxiety, memory loss, difficulty with balance, executive dysfunction, aggression, and suicidality. CTE can be detected by a buildup of tau, which is a protein that naturally exists in the brain. Excessive amounts of tau will clump and pool together causing a degeneration of the brain tissue.
Autopsies of former NFL players showed CTE in 47 out of 48 brains studied. After receiving the news of a preliminary CTE diagnosis, Tony Dorsett appeared on ESPN to discuss the condition. He explained that he decided to participate in the study because of the clear symptoms of depression, memory loss, aggression and thoughts of suicide that he was experiencing. He was most troubled by his explosive behavior towards his family. Overcome with emotion he acknowledged that:
"It's painful, man, for my daughters to say they're scared of me. It's painful. My quality of living has changed drastically and it deteriorates every day."
Former players Joe DeLamielleure, Leonard Marshall, and one other unidentified player also participated in the study. Similar to Dorsett, DeLamielleure and Marshall volunteered due to the symptoms they were experiencing. On ESPN, Marshall also opened up about his experience saying, "I've had short-term memory loss, erratic behavior where the least little thing would set me off, and I've experienced fogginess and even been in a daze at times." Dorsett, DeLamielleure, and Marshall were also plaintiff's in the recent suit against the NFL, which ended in an unsatisfactory settlement. The NFL has since acknowledged a scientific connection between concussions experienced in football and long-term brain damage. As of yet, the NFL has remained silent regarding the recent findings of CTE in its former players.