We are members of one another. What binds us together is far greater than what separates us… because of our interconnectivity, what happens to the least of us happens to all of us. Whatever you do for the least of us, you do for all of us.
When I read Mike Webster’s file before I began his autopsy, I knew he was more than a 50-year-old heart attack victim. His file and the television reports of the death of the former Pittsburgh Steelers center described a long, steep fall into bizarre behavior. I suspected he suffered from some sort of brain disorder.
All the NFL players I have examined pathologically, I have not seen one that did not have changes in their brain system with brain damage.
Chronic means long term. Traumatic means associated with trauma. Encephalopathy means a bad brain.
Actually, I’m for football. But I’m for intelligent football that enhances us rather than football that steals away who we are.
There is no safe blow to the head, especially for a child.
I am a spiritual person. I’m a Catholic. I treat my patients, the dead patients, as live patients. I believe there is life after death. And I talk to my patients. I talk to them, not loudly but quietly in my heart when I look at them. Before I do an autopsy, I must have a visual contact with the face.
I grew up in Africa, in Nigeria. I never knew, I never had any reasonable encounter with football. I saw football on Sky News. I thought there were people dressed like extraterrestrials, you know, like they were going to Mars or something, headgears and shoulder pads. And I wondered why, as a child, why did they have to dress that way.
As a physician, I’m somewhat an advocate of patients. How come, before Mike Webster, no NFL player was told or knew that there was an intrinsic risk of brain damage from playing football?
No, no, I don’t watch football. The last time I tried watching was the last Super Bowl. The problem I have is, you know, the graphic nature of my imagination; when I watch and see them meeting head onto head, helmet onto helmet, what flashes through my mind is what’s going on in their brains. It’s like torture to me.
Yes, the concept that blunt-force trauma of the head causes brain damage is a generally accepted principle of medicine. That is why I was so appalled by the NFL doctors who were denying my work.
What I did when I identified Mike Webster’s thing, I showed it to other doctors. We all agreed that this was something new, but we had to give it a name. This was not dementia pugilistica. Maybe we could have called it dementia footballitica!
A child who plays a game of football for one season without any documented concussion – several months after that season, if you subject his brain to sophisticated psychological testing and radiological testing, functional MRIs, there is evidence of brain damage.
I meet with retired football players. Some are well-dressed, some are well-spoken, but when you talk to them personally, they will admit to you that they are having problems. But they are managing their problems. They have impaired memory, they’re having mood problems. They are being treated by their psychiatrists.
Will Smith’s acting reaffirms my belief in the American perfection.
My son is 6. I wouldn’t let my six-year-old son near any football field. And if any coach asks my son to play football, I’ll sue that coach, and I’ll sue the school.
Trust in the great American ingenuity. We can derive more intelligent, more brain-friendly ways we can play football.