FOX Files – Former NFL Player Talks About Concussions

FOX Files
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - As another NFL season draws to a close, worries linger about concussions and the toll they take on players' brains years down the road. More than 3,000 former players have sued the league, accusing the NFL of withholding information about the risks of head injuries for decades. The league denies the allegations. Meanwhile, the NFL is spending $30 Million dollars through the National Institutes of Health to fund efforts to find some answers to this nagging problem.

Washington University is one of the funded sites. Dr. David Brody, a neurologist is heading up the Washington University group that is providing clinical care for retired NFL players with neurological problems. Dr. Brody calls it doing rehab for the brain. He says asking the player or those around him what's interfering with his everyday life is important in assessing the situation. The rehab involves helping them think faster, be more organized and control their emotions better. They received medicines to help with sleep problems or attention deficit disorder.

Concussions typically damage the axons, the brain's wiring system that connects one part to another. Current MRI scans aren't sensitive to axon damage. So along with money for clinical care, Washington University is also receiving funding to develop the next generation of MRI. One that would be more sensitive to the amount and location of damage to the axons caused by concussions. It's called Diffusion Sensor Imaging and should be available before long.

A big worry for players with repeated concussions is something called CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It's a steady deterioration of the brain over decades. It's linked to behavioral problems, depression and personality changes. It is currently untreatable. CTE showed up in the brain of former linebacker, Junior Seau who committed suicide last year. He was one of a growing number of former players who died with signs of the disease.

Dr. Brody hopes the NFL efforts will eventually develop new ways to diagnose, treat and reverse these brain injuries while the players are alive.

Howard Richards hopes so too. A former player, he's participating in one of the NFL studies at Boston University. Howard was a first team All Big-8 and 2nd Team All-America offensive lineman at Mizzou. He was a first round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1981 and played 7 years in the NFL. He says doctors estimate he suffered 3-5 concussions a year from high school through the pros. He recalls the hard hits that left him seeing stars, feeling dizzy with headaches, numbness in his back and neck. Howard says when he played, concussions were never really considered a risk. They were just part of the game. You brushed them off and went back in. You didn't want to let down your teammates and someone was waiting to take your place if you couldn't go. It wasn't just the hits in games, but all the hitting during practice.

Data pix.

After retiring from football, Howard worked for the CIA and is now the Executive Director of Institutional Security and Development for Harris Stowe State University and analyst for the Mizzou football radio broadcasts. He says he still has some symptoms he thinks are related to all those concussions. He has dizziness from time to time, headaches, occasional memory lapses and numbness in his left arm. Howard hopes they are not symptoms of something serious like CTE; but he is concerned. He thinks of Junior Seau, John Mackey, Mike Webster and others.. all who died with signs of the disease. That's one of the reasons he's participating in the study at Boston U. He wants to know if there is something wrong. He also wants to help others down the road.

Howard believes more needs to be done for player safety, especially at the high school and college level. He mentions restricting impact in practices and better helmets. He believes players on these levels have less say in equipment they use, whereas the pros have much more input. NFL players even have a union that can and does negotiate safety issues with the league.

The U-S military is also interested in these brain injury studies because they can be applied to blast-related injuries.

Meanwhile, UCLA researchers have released results of a small study in which they were able to use a low-dose radioactive compound to spot evidence of a protein associated with CTE in the brains of some living former players. More study is needed, but it's encouraging.

More information:

Data pix.
Data pix.

FOX 2 Newsletters

Sign up for a newsletter from FOX 2 to get updates about news and weather. We offer daily headlines, breaking news, severe weather, and forecast emails.

About the FOX Files

The Fox Files are groundbreaking investigations you won’t see anywhere else. The series is well known for breaking the Pam Hupp story nationally. The reports that led to the exoneration of Russ Faria. But, it is far from the only time in which our investigations led to overturned convictions and freedom for the wrongfully accused. The Fox Files investigations do not fit into just one category, other than the fact our reports shine a light on issues and corruption in ways you won’t see anywhere else.

You won’t know what to expect as our reports often take twists that surprise even Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes.

“You never know where the truth will lead and you have to keep searching for it, even when you think you might be done,” Hayes said.

From getting arrested for trying to cover a public meeting, to getting law enforcement involved in his report about a daycare fight club, the Fox Files has been at the forefront of breaking news investigations in the St. Louis area.

It doesn’t stop just in St. Louis. The Pam Hupp/Russ Faria story took him to Lincoln County. Fox 2 was the first to report, nationally, on the synthetic drug epidemic when it began in St. Charles County, MO. In St. Louis County, our Fox Files reporting led to the dismantling of some police departments, including the departments of Uplands Park and Jennings. And in the City of St. Louis, our investigations led to swift government actions, such as our report that led to the Governor’s ordered shut down of a daycare.

Our reporting in St. Louis also led to former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ exclusive Fox Files interviews involving his court fight to oust the chief prosecutor while attempting to prove that political corruption led to an illegal overturning of a state election.

“It’s not always bad news,” Hayes said about a recent victory for a restaurant in his coverage of a St. Clair County Illinois issue. A Fox Files report, exposing a health department’s mistake over the COVID-19 pandemic, led to an overturning of a decision, allowing the business to open for limited inside dining.

Another investigation took us to Madison County, where prosecutors praised Fox 2’s coverage while shutting down an illegal synthetic drug business – and to Monroe County, where we uncovered key evidence in the Chris Coleman murder trial.

Even the national media, continues reaching out to local affiliate Fox 2 KTVI and the Fox Files, for its work on cases that are important to St. Louis. When you see a network television’s coverage of St. Louis, you’ll often see that they gathered information that was first uncovered right here.


Latest News

More News