Professional Athletes Showing Signs Of Dementia From Head Injuries

Posted by Accutech on September 29, 2012 12:16 pm

Professional athletes hold a special place in American hearts and minds. We admire them or try to be like them, and in return they give us superhuman displays of endurance, speed, and agility.

After years of repeated concussions NFL players are showing signs of Alzheimer's and dementia.

But some players, particularly in the National Football League, are paying for their dedication and fortitude with their minds and memories. One in three retired football players will face some form of cognitive impairment or dementia, some while still in their 30s.

Ted Johnson was a linebacker for the New England Patriots and played for ten seasons, making 239 career tackles. At just 34 years old he was already showing minor cognitive impairment normally associated with early Alzheimer’s disease.

Dave Duerson, a safety with two Super Bowl rings, played for 11 years in the  NFL and was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy after years of head-on crashes. He committed suicide in 2011, leaving a note that read, “Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank.”

Jim McMahon, 1985 Super Bowl quarterback, known for his antics off the field and willingness to play even while injured, is facing a diagnosis of dementia at just 53 years old. He is one of a group of NFL players suing the organization for their lack of attention to the high number of head injuries in past decades and of hard hitting and “suck it up” coaches and trainers that encouraged them to keep playing.

"Being injured, if you don't play, you don't get paid. If I was able to walk out on that field, I was gonna play," he said in an interview with Chicago's WFLD-TV at his Arizona home. "Had I known about that stuff early on in my career, I probably would have chosen a different career. I always wanted to be a baseball player anyway."

The average NFL career lasts a mere three and an half years and the vast majority of players never see the huge salaries, endorsements and media exposure of the more skilled and valuable players. Add to that the almost 80% of players that Sports Illustrated reveals face bankruptcy or other financial difficulties within two years of retirement and you have a sad story of unemployed athletes struggling with health issues that will last the remainder of their lives.

Fortunately the NFL is putting measure in place to discourage the spectacular tackles that impressed fans and resulted in concussions. They are also slowly beginning to reach out to older players who often find themselves with debilitating medical issues and little money to care for themselves.

As fans we can also play a role by acknowledging that our favorite players might have to sit out a few games and rethink our own “suck it up” attitudes. We can pass this along to our children as well, and make them understand that playing with an injury isn’t brave and that taking care of ourselves first and our team second is the smart way to play.

Accutech has engineered, manufactured, distributed and serviced radio frequency identification (RFID) and wireless products since 1985. The ResidentGuard system prevents Alzheimer’s and dementia patients from wandering both within and outside of residential care facilities, skilled nursing homes, and even residential homes. 

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