Dorsett opens up about his struggles with concussions

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As more and more players joined the concussion-suit parade earlier this year, the involvement of tailback Tony Dorsett was for some (and absolutely for me) a sit-up-and-take-notice moment.  Years after his retirement, Dorsett’s annual stroll onto the stage at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton sparks chatter that he looks like he could still suit up and play the game, right now.

But the body rarely reveals what’s actually happening inside the brain, and Dorsett explains that he definitely experiences the effects of at least five concussions sustained while playing pro football, and that he’s doing all he can to keep it from getting worse.

“There are some good days and there are some bad days,” Dorsett told the Beaver County (Pa.) Times earlier this week, in connection with the 20th annual Tony Dorsett/McGuire Memorial Celebrity Golf Classic.  “So I am being proactive instead of inactive.”

Dorsett works out regularly and eats well, and he’s considering experimentation wit a hyperbaric chamber, a device Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin recently said he may use to assist with the health of his brain.

“I can slow the process down . . . there’s optimism about that,” Dorsett said.  “I feel if I can slow it down, I can stop it.  I’m not waiting to see if I’ll be nonfunctional.”

Dorsett believes that the concussion lawsuits, which now involve more than 2,200 players, eventually will be settled by the league.  And as to one of the NFL’s expected defenses — that even if players had been fully warned about all risks of concussions they still would have wanted to play — Dorsett begs to differ.

“Would I have risked my health years ago and gone back on the football field after a concussion if I knew there would be percussions in the future?” Dorsett said.  “Hell no!”

He points specifically to a game against the Eagles in 1984.  After absorbing what he called “the hardest hit I ever took,” Dorsett was evaluated by doctors and cleared to return to play.

At age 58 and with daughters as young as eight and 13, Dorsett worries about the future.  “[T]here’s a chance I might not be functional when my daughters have kids and I’ll be a grandfather,” Dorsett said.

Many will say that’s part of the risk that he assumed by playing football.  Still, Dorsett’s situation highlights the fact that, at each level of the game, every reasonable step should be taken to reduce the risks that a football player assumes when fastening a chin strap and running onto the field.  Though the risks can never be eliminated, they can — and should — be minimized.

16 responses to “Dorsett opens up about his struggles with concussions

  1. The technology to reduce concussions and quantify electronically the force of blows to the head exists now. The use of these advanced helmets should be mandated immediately by the league, whether or not the players like the look of the equipment.

  2. This is the first time I’ve really heard an argument for the lawsuits that makes sense to me. Any retired player that says he would have pursued a different career is a liar, but guys like Dorsett saying they would have taken some games off to recover from brain rattling hits if they had known the lasting effects, that sinks in.

  3. Elimination of contact is the only way to eliminate concussions.. As long as they wear helmets and make contact on every play, there will be concussions.. Helmets don’t protect the brain , they protect the skull. The brain still moves in the head upon a collision. The damage comes from the brain striking the skull. The better the players think the helmets are the more they will use them to deliver a blow or protect themselves. Concussions will continue to be a risk when playing football. So, you have to decide if you want to continue to watch the game in it’s current form or have the game relegated to pulling flags.

    Similar to J.O.S.H.U.A.’s statement about geothermal nuclear war, the only way to avoid concussions is not to play.

  4. I don’t doubt that there are many players out there that have been adversely affected by the damage their bodies took during their playing days. But it’s hard for me not to believe that 1) there are several guys out there that are used to having their bodies in peak physical condition and now that the aging process is really setting in they’re quick to assume that they can’t find their car keys because of a hit they took in ’86 or something and 2) let’s face it, several of these individuals probably did not manage their money as well as they should have and now that there is a lawsuit, you have a bunch of these guys jumping on the band wagon hoping for some kind of a pay day. My personal opinion would be that if I was an individual seeking retribution for a legitimate issue, that I would attempt to seek that retribution individually instead of jumping into this lawsuit because while the list of names involved continues to grow to an impressive amount, at this point I would be concerned that those former players that are simply trying to take advantage of getting a check cut out to them are going to hurt my chances and getting the resolution I would want.

  5. therealdmuls says:
    Jun 6, 2012 8:31 AM
    You played football. A contact sport. Get over it.


    Did you even read the article? Get over yourself, first.

  6. TD made it a little clearer on what the lawsuit is about. Sounds like the lawsuit is not about: “I played football and got hurt, so give me some money”, however moreso it’s about “I got hurt, you knew I was hurt and instead of holding me out for a couple of days to recover…you told me to get back in the game and risk further damage”

    The question to me, is that on the NFL or should they be suing those doctors instead? Or is it a matter of those docs fall under NFL so just sue the NFL.

  7. Sadly, these guys life expectancies are 20 years less than non nfl players.

  8. So, i received a couple of concussions in high school football and now that i’m almost 50 i have some memory problems. Should I sue my local school district?

  9. “Would I have risked my health years ago and gone back on the football field after a concussion if I knew there would be percussions in the future?” Dorsett said.

    Not for nothing, but “percussions” are serious business. I had a headache one time and it felt like the whole percussion section of the Philharmonic was in my head….

    Saying that, I don’t think any doctor could’ve told him of the percussions he would hear after his playing days were over….

  10. percey12 says:
    Jun 6, 2012 10:39 AM
    So, i received a couple of concussions in high school football and now that i’m almost 50 i have some memory problems. Should I sue my local school district?


    Got proof? Did they diagnose you with it, give you some smelling salt and say shut up and go back amd play? Got the rest of the players who agree with you? Got the money to pay lawyers for a long drawn out court case?

    If yes to all of that, then you may have a case, if no, then keep your non-sensical hypothetical points to yourself.

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