We started the second day of our IFV Conference last April in Las Vegas at the South Point with a panel discussing some of the latest information and studies on concussions, brain damage and current state-of-the-art treatments. Retired 49′er George Visger talks about his personal journey after football to recover some of his lost memory after 9 brain surgeries and years of living out of notebooks to help him remember his daily routines. Dr. William Duncan talks about the latest information on hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT and the current efforts to advance legislation for HBOT in Washington on behalf of veterans and the general public. You can follow along Bill Duncan’s presentation by opening up his PowerPoint presentation while playing the video in the background. (We’ve also included a copy of George Visger’s slideshow below Bill Duncan’s presentation.) .
On Sunday, the Denver Post published an article and interview I did last week with sports journalist, Terry Frei. Over the course of our conversation which mostly covered the issues of injuries and concussions and the subsequent consequences of the League’s general attitude of denial at all levels. (A link to that article is at the bottom of this post.) At one point in our conversation, I told Terry, “The concussion issue, if not handled right, has the potential to end football.” (My emphasis.) What I did NOT say was that the concussion issue would end football. No sooner than Terry’s article was posted, then the other media and bloggers immediately re-wrote the story and started to misquote me. The worst misquote? NFL.com with this headline: Ex-player Dave Pear says concussion issue could end NFL. Not really what I said at all. . Most of our readers know that my long battle has always been about legal and open access to OUR earned pension and disability benefits. And any resolution on concussions will need to address three separate groups of players: Past, Present and Future. (By the way, you might remember that this slogan used to be on all our NFLPA membership cards.) Each of the retired players who played will need to have direct access to their benefits that should include testing and treatments from their football-related concussions and brain damage, as well as access to assisted care and monitoring in later years. There is no doubt that most of the earlier players from the 50′s and 60′s were not given the safest equipment during their playing careers. It was even more about the money back then than it is today – just ask the men who played on the original hard surfaces of Astro Turf about the toll it took on their bodies and their heads. All for the savings the owners made from not having to maintain real turf. And they went on strike in the late 50′s and early 60′s not for more money but to make the owners pay for their uniforms and equipment. . For the present-day players, the addition of independent neurologists on the sidelines certainly helps, along with better-defined rules to ensure that concussed players don’t return to the game unless cleared by experts (no more Dr. No’s). Many of the new rules are a good step in the right direction. Newer treatments such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) are being shown to shorten recovery while helping with healing to the damage that concussions leave behind. Even if owners are more concerned about profits, the ROI on getting a million-dollar-a-year asset back on the field in half the normal time makes pure business sense. And while the League is at it, a great PR move would be to allow retired players free access to these hyperbaric chambers when they’re not being used by the team. . For future players, any improvements in the rules and knowledge gained from players past and present can only serve to provide them with a much safer game while still preserving the game of football as we know and love it. But if we’re going to save football, players from the past, present and future will need to work together in order to help protect each other first. Current and future players owe the retired players a priceless debt for the sacrifices they paid with their bodies and brains – as well as the long years of denial – to get to this point where there is finally a serious discussion on something that affects us all. The players of the future will surely also benefit from the way the game is shaped for today’s players. .
Ex-NFL player Dave Pear seeks to change league policy on concussions
Big-time pollen alerts across the country! Jennifer and her daughter are recovering from severe allergies this week, so we’re going ahead and posting up the PowerPoints from some of the discussions at our Second Independent Football Veterans Conference. Sorry for the delays in getting everything posted quickly – we thank everyone for their patience and understand how many of you who couldn’t attend are anxiously awaiting the videos so you can catch up on what you missed. All our best to Jennifer and her daughter for a speedy recovery! . Without a doubt, the most requested videos and Powerpoints have certainly been for our panel on concussions and the lawsuits filed against the NFL and Riddell. Jason Luckasevic from Goldberg Persky White filed one of the first concussion lawsuits on behalf of retired football players. To date, his firm is also one of the few to include Riddell the helmet manufacturer – “Official Helmet of the NFL” – as a responsible party. Richard Lewis from Hausfeld LLP joined Jason on the panel last Saturday morning to present his firm’s decisions leading up to filing their concussion suit. . Please keep two things in mind: There are many capable and qualified attorneys representing plaintiffs in the concussion litigation. Please speak to those you choose to make sure your potential claim is evaluated promptly. The other issue discussed at the Conference was a potential statute of limitation specifically related to this round of concussion lawsuits. This means you may have to sign up with a representative firm soon before the filing period expires. More on this shortly from one of the attorneys involved in this suit. . Feel free to call Jason or Rich directly with any questions you may have regarding your own concussion concerns – each of them has agreed to make themselves available to talk to our readers: . Jason Luckasevic • Goldberg Persky White (412) 338-9460 . Richard Lewis • Hausfeld LLP (202) 540-7200 . You can view each slideshow full screen by clicking on the FullScreen icon in the lower right corner of each slide screen (press ESC to close the slideshow).
Football damaged my brain and it didn’t have to happen
GEORGE VISGER, a former 49er, tells his story .
Due to the size and speed of today’s football players, the kinetic energy they generate during hits can have long-term consequences. Here’s my story: .
My football career began at age 11 in 1970 when I suited up for the West Stockton Bear Cubs, the first Pee Wee Pop Warner team fielded in Stockton, Calif. Of the 29 kids on the team, three went on to sign NFL contracts in 1980 (myself — sixth round, New York Jets; Jack Cosgrove — eighth round, Seattle Seahawks; Pat Bowe — free agent, Green Bay Packers). .
During my third year of Pop Warner, I was hospitalized when I knocked myself unconscious during a tackling drill. The exercise was a needless bull-in-the-ring drill that was more of a gladiator competition for the coaches’ amusement than a means of teaching useful techniques to young players. .
The coaches had us form a big circle about 25 yards across and numbered the 40 of us 1 to 20 on each side. When your number was called, you and the player on the other side with the same number sprinted directly at each other and hit head-to-head. .
Concussions followed throughout my high school career, though I never missed a game or practice. In my senior year, we went 11-0 and ranked No. 3 in California. I was selected to the All-America Top 100 Team. .
I entered the University of Colorado on a football scholarship in 1976 as a 6-foot, 5-inch 235-pound defensive tackle, majoring in biology. I was a starter for three years and suffered a number of minor concussions, but I never missed a play except after leg injuries. .
EDITOR’S NOTE:George Visger caught up with me on the phone this morning just before arriving at a job site. George is back at work trying hard to help his family recover from losing their home after suffering another near-fatal brain shunt failure last October. George is one of the most remarkably intelligent and resilient guys I’ve ever met and his tenacity comes through in everything he does. I often talk to him about what might have happened with his life had he never played professional football and sustained his life-altering brain damage. He starts off with an answer to John Hogan’s earlier post (click HERE to read John Hogan’s comment). .
From TheUnion.com: George Visger, a Grass Valley resident, shows his 1981 San Francisco 49ers team photo and Super Bowl ring. Visger has undergone nine brain surgeries since he stepped off the football field for the final time.
Dr. William A. Duncan serves as President of Capitol Strategy Consultants, Inc., where he represents clients on healthcare, biomedical research, veterans, Department of Defense, and criminal justice and public health arenas. His clients benefit from his extensive background in the congressional appropriations process and heath care regulations. . In the medical realm, Dr. Duncan supervised numerous legislative priorities including National Institutes of Health reforms for setting research priorities, expansion on biomedical research infrastructure, AHRQ and evidence-based medicine initiatives, NIH and CDC initiatives in environmental medicine, amputee services, and addressing chronic disease including diabetes and public health. He dealt with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services problems, including getting CMS to approve a new indication for hyperbaric oxygen to reduce diabetic foot amputations, reducing the regulatory burden on health care, prescription drug, and FDA issues. . (Our videos are hosted on Veoh in HD and you can watch them full screen by clicking on the Expand button in the lower right corner of the video window.) To follow the entire slideshow, we suggest starting the video and then opening the slideshow full screen so you can hear the accompanying narration. .
Ed Nemeth, a successful, highly educated and trained businessman with a background in neurological research is the father of a severe quad CP child. Shortly after his daughter Rebecca’s complicated birth and cardiac arrest for 35 minutes he and his wife were presented with the unspeakable-yet-strongly-suggested single choice for their first-born child: Discontinue life support or allow their child to continue brain dead. Devoid of options, the Nemeths discontinued life support; Rebecca rallied and lived. Five years later, through their indefatigable efforts, the Nemeths found HBOT and after a short course of HBOT, their daughter experienced a quantum leap in neuro-cognitive function and significantly improved movement and coordination. . Based on his daughter’s dramatic improvement, Mr. Nemeth vowed to make HBOT available to all of Rebecca’s Friends and to offer parents another choice to removing their children from life support. To do so, he underwrote the “2001 2nd International Symposium on Hyperbaric Oxygenation and the Brain-Injured Child” held in Boca Raton, Florida. . Starting with a personal story in which hyperbaric oxygen therapy played a dramatic role in his daughter’s recovery, Ed also shares his story about meeting George Visger and providing him with HBOT treatment for his longstanding brain concussion damage. Then Ed presents a compelling slideshow with facts on hyperbaric oxygen treatments. . (Our videos are hosted on Vimeo in HD and you can watch them full screen by clicking on the Expand button in the lower right corner of the video window.) To follow the entire slideshow, we suggest starting the video and then opening the slideshow full screen so you can hear the accompanying narration. .
Steve Reimers was introduced to hyperbarics as a young Naval officer in 1969 and has been designing and building hyperbaric facilities ever since. Presently he runs two companies, Reimers Systems, Inc. (RSI) and Hyperbaric Clearinghouse, Inc. (HCI). RSI is a major installer of monoplace chambers. They have developed liquid cylinder based oxygen supply systems and air ventilation equipment that make it possible to establish a monoplace center nearly anywhere. . Steve gives an excellent primer on the long history of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and its effectiveness in healing. Steve then discusses recent advances in its use for treating brain injuries and efforts needed to get this treatment into mainstream healthcare. . (The videos are hosted on Vimeo in HD and you can watch them full screen by clicking on the Expand button in the lower right corner of the video window.) .
James K. Wright, MD, Col, USAF (Ret) is the principal investigator for the National Brain Injury Rescue and Rehabilitation Trial (NBIRR) in which individuals with TBI or PTSD can receive hyperbaric oxygen treatment for their injuries. He recently retired from the Air Force where was the group surgeon for the 720th Special Tactics Group, Air Force Special Operations Command, and prior to that time directed hyperbaric research for the Air Force. He is board certified in Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine. .
At our IFV Conference, Dr. Wright discusses his ongoing studies on the dramatic successes with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in treating wounded troops coming back from the Middle East. He points out the striking similarities between military studies and the recent discoveries made in treating the effects of concussions in professional football players. . (The videos are hosted on Vimeo in HD and you can watch them full screen by clicking on the Expand button in the lower right corner of the video window.) .
Dave - . I read that earlier post with the article on Fred McNeil (click HERE) and wanted to thank you and Robert once again for the great tireless job you both do on educating everyone about the real world of professional football. . We’ve discussed this in the past, and after reading more and more posts on your blog from all the players suffering with early symptoms of CTE (short term memory issues, poor judgment, anger management issues, uncontrollable emotions), I would like to reach out to all and compile a database of contacts. I know if we put our collective minds together (or whatever pieces we have that still function), we can share coping mechanisms each of us has learned to live by. I know I have my bag of tricks and would like to share them with everyone. . I hope Fred McNeil (and others) have looked into some of these fairly simple, non-medicinal rehab/recovery processes; these are a few of the things that get me through each day: .
Look into Workers Compensation. California has been allowing claims to be filed if you were injured while playing in the state, even if it’s not your team’s home state. I successfully sued the 49ers for Workers Comp and won in 1986. Since then, I even used Vocational Rehab to return to school to complete my biology degree (1986 – 1990). They will fight you tooth-and-nail over every penny but be relentless. This isn’t a handout. You paid into Workers Comp and earned every penny!
Sleep apnea exam. Ask your wives or significant others if you show symptoms of very loud snoring and long “pauses” in breathing. Inadequate sleep and loss of oxygen when you skip breathing can cause inflammation of neurons and interfere with everyday reasoning and functioning.
If you drink: QUIT. I discovered I was having brain seizures from alcohol several months after my third brain surgery and quit in 1982. I had been arrested 3X in the 8 prior months after my first surgery! A couple beers may seem OK, but can cause short circuits in the brain’s electrical system.
Look into Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT). I have had great results with my first 80 treatments. I am beginning to suspect my latest deterioration is associated with my last Shunt malfunction a few weeks ago and will be tested for petit mal seizures. Prior to the malfunction and subsequently stopping the hyperbarics, I was doing better than I have for decades.
Omega-3 fish oil. The brain is mainly made of EPA and DHA which makes up Omega-3 fish oils. While the jury may still out on whether the body uses these to repair damaged brain tissue, even if Omega 3′s are not necessarily used to repair neurological tissues, they’re great for reducing cholesterol. We all know what our diets were like to maintain our weights.
Work simple memory games. Even kids’ games. It’s been proven that you can “exercise your brain” and grow new neurons into areas of the brain which are not damaged. Humans use less than 10% of their brains. Get those brain cells currently sitting on the sidelines into the game!
Change your routines. If you always brush your teeth with your right hand, start using your left. Shake hands with the opposite hand. Changes out of the ordinary force you to concentrate on simple tasks, which in turn causes your brain to construct new neurons into areas of the brain which aren’t being used.
Stay positive. It’s been scientifically proven that if you think you’ll get better, you’ll function better. Something good always comes out of everything and we’re being tested for a reason.
Get mad. It’s time we quit accepting the fact we are used, discarded pieces of meat when the NFL is done with us and it’s time to kick the owners right in the teeth to get their attention. That means hitting them where it hurts – in the pocket book. And to do that, we need our stories out there to get public support. We all need to be forgiving but anger is not a bad thing if used constructively. Let’s use it to motivate ourselves to be proactive.
Don’t be shy. Get your stories out there. In the last year or so since I discovered Dave’s Blog, I have reached out to media and sent in comments on any articles related to football injuries, traumatic brain injuries etc. every chance I get. We need to let the public know what’s going on. Without public support, we’re just a few thousand “millionaire crybabies” in the public’s eyes. Remember: It’s the public who buys the tickets, pays for cable and supports the greedy owners. What we have done up to now hasn’t worked.
Keep plugged into Dave Pear’s Blog. Reach out to as many other discarded NFL players, college players, coaches etc. There’s strength in numbers and a wealth of information to share here. Just knowing that others are dealing with the same issues I’ve had for years has been huge for me. We were all indoctrinated into the mindset that real men/players don’t bitch about their problems. Everyone has a cross to bear. They’re much easier to carry when some of your brothers hoist up a corner.
There are certain similarities between the warriors who become football players and the warriors who serve the needs of the military. In a sense, football is organized war, whereas “real” war is disorganized. Of course, retired soldiers have the VA, an understaffed organization that makes the process for applying for benefits a labyrinth of complications because the more obstacles they can throw up at the retired soldier, the longer the VA can delay providing the benefits a retired soldier is entitled to, the less the VA has to pay out in the long term. Does this sound vaguely familiar to retired football players?
The third and final part of Dr. Stoller’s work with Wayne Hawkins and HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy). Dr. Stoller’s post talks about how a big industry – the big multinational pharmaceutical companies – have managed to keep HBOT hidden from the public and left out of qualification for Medicare reimbursement. Wait – does that sound like another coverup we know about? Nah!
Sometimes you just have to shake your head and laugh when a situation gets so ridiculous and absolutely everyone else can see it except the very people who should be able to see it. Yesterday, Dr. Ken Stoller submitted the first part of his series on HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) and how the treatment for George Visger and Wayne Hawkins has been progressing. When you read Part II today, you’ll realize that Dr. Stoller is now also getting a taste of the typical bureaucratic runaround that retired players have been encountering for years.