Hall of Famers Johnson, Perry donate their brains

Two teammates from the 1950s who died recently, both Pro Football Hall of Famers, donated their brains to a Boston University study of head trauma.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Joe Perry, who died in April at age 84, and John Henry Johnson, who died last week at age 81, agreed before they died to have their brains studied.

Perry’s widow, Donna, said she thinks her husband suffered brain damage in football and hopes the study of his brain can lead to a better understanding of what hits on the football field can do to the brain.

“When Joe was playing, they’d give them smelling salts and put them back in,” Donna Perry said. “Now the equipment is better, and they’re looking into ways to protect them. We have to look at what this is doing to our children.”

Johnson and Perry were both members of the 49ers’ “Million Dollar Backfield.”

13 responses to “Hall of Famers Johnson, Perry donate their brains

  1. I heard a rumor that several current NFL players offered to donate their brains, also. They were unable to due to their off-field actions indicating that they did not have any.”

  2. So are the brains of 80+ year old people really going to tell anyone anything worthwhile and conclusive????

  3. if they died at 84 and 81 thats a fairly long lifespan which makes you wonder how much/what kinda trauma they suffered if any? even players and equipment advances decades later guys are dying or commiting suicide in their late 40’s and 50’s now so im sure a good bit of nfl player deaths occur because of things besides head injuries,etc

  4. @willycents

    Bad. More than enough stories about the lockout, don’t need to start that crap up in an unrelated story.

  5. These guys lived into their eighties and played when the helmets and pads were softer. Anyone see a correlation here?

  6. “So are the brains of 80+ year old people really going to tell anyone anything worthwhile and conclusive????”

    First, answer this question: “Are you a doctor?”

    In a related story, when does the Commish get HIS head examined? Come on Goodell. End the lockout. Give us your brain.

  7. Players can live for decades in a state of diminished capacity. John Mackey is a prime example.

  8. Donna hopes the brain made it to the research institution as promised.

    “You know how Joe was, if you didn’t remind him constantly, he’d forget where he left his head.”.

  9. I sat with John Henry Johnson and his late wife at a Super Bowl dinner in Atlanta a few years ago. He was in great shape physically and nicely dressed. But he was unable to particpate in any conversations and was obviously brain damaged or just senile. Someone in his family made a good decision to have his brain donated. The league should be thankful, too.

  10. The NFL won’t ever do anything significant about brain injuries because the majority of ex-players are forgotten about. The NFL fans pay money to see the players that are playing now. I think over the past couple months, the NFL has proved it cares more about the money now versus the well being of the game later.

  11. jackfnburton: how many issues plague 80 year old people to begin with?

    There are 20 reasons why this wont make a difference, age just being one minor one. Thank.

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