Thurman Thomas open about memory loss, other issues related to concussions

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Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas told the Buffalo News that three times recently he’s had to pull off a familiar road on his way to work due to memory loss related to the “six or seven” concussions Thomas told the newspaper he suffered during his playing career.

In a feature story on Thomas meeting and talking football with Bills rookie running back Jonathan Williams, Thomas said he “would do it all again” despite being told by doctors that scans showed them the frontal lobe of his brain looks like he’d been thrown off a house or had been banging his head into a car windshield.

Thomas said in the story that after taking one especially punishing hit in a 1990 game against the Broncos, “everything went blank” for 15 seconds, but after chatting with team medical staff he was told to take “a couple of aspirin and get your [butt] back in there.”

The NFL in recent years has dealt with numerous lawsuits and has taken numerous new measures to try to prevent players who suffer concussions from returning to the field until they’ve been cleared.

Thomas told the Buffalo News that his son, Thurman Thomas III, has decided not to play football as he heads to high school, but he said he has no regrets about playing the way he played. He said that, even now, given the chance to run out of bounds or towards a defender coming up to make a hit, “I’m punishing that defensive back.”

The Bills in March announced plans to retire the No. 34 jersey Thomas wore. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 after a 13-year career during which he ran for more than 12,000 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Last spring, Thomas opened up about mood swings, memory loss and other side effects he’s suffered during a speech at a concussion summit.

12 responses to “Thurman Thomas open about memory loss, other issues related to concussions

  1. rcali says:
    Jul 9, 2016 6:33 PM
    My grandfather got black lung from working in a coal mine. What’s the point?


    Very easy to explain and understand.

    Until the 1950s, there was no medical awareness of black lung disease, and until 1969 there was not much public discussion of it. In 1969, the government passed the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act to address mining problems and health issues including black lung disease. But for men who worked in the mines in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s it was too late. They were not aware of the risks when they worked in the mines. Men who started working in the mines in the 1970s, 1980s, and later were made very aware of the disease because coal miners were legally required to go through safety training that explained the dangers of black lung and similar health problems that often occur due to working in coal mines.

    Thurman Thomas’s situation is similar to that of a coal miner who worked in the 1940s. In the mid-1990s and earlier, there was very limited to no understanding of the very negative long-term effects on the brain of concussions and sub-concussive blows (regular hitting in a typical football play). Players in Thomas’s era understood that a concussion could keep them out of a game or several games, and that they might feel awful for days or weeks after a concussion, but they did not know that concussions could cause serious permanent, long-term damage. Unlike a broken bone that heals and is not a problem after it heals, a brain that has suffered several concussions does not heal “good as new”.

    Football players and coal miners of today are well informed of the risks they are taking. Football players of 25 years ago and coal miners of 50 years ago were not well informed of the risks, and in many cases they weren’t informed in the slightest.

  2. nflviewer

    Those of us that used that argument a few years back would get thumbed down as people were just calling the older guys greedy people who knew what they signed up for. Glad it’s changed.

  3. In the very bear future, players are going to have to sign a waiver, to play and that waiver will state, they understand the risk of permanent brain damage. Starting at the junior high level, or earlier.

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