Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas offered a startling admission about his health that took our breath away.
In an appearances on “In Depth With Graham Bensinger,” Thomas admitted he is already experiencing memory loss, though he isn’t 100-percent sure it’s all because of football.
“I definitely expect memory loss,” he said (h/t Pat McManamon of ESPN). “I’m already seeing memory loss, and maybe that’s just because of my old age or maybe it’s football, it’s hard to tell.
“I mean, there’s no double-blind studies when it comes to people’s life. It’s just a part, I think, of sometimes getting older. And it’s hard to tell it’s because of football or because you’re 32 and you’re not 21 anymore and you have a lot of stuff going in your life.”
Thomas described his issues in a bit of detail.
“Short-term memory loss — hard times remembering, like things that have happened recently,” he said. “Like, you walk to the grocery store and you’re like, ‘Huh, I can’t remember what I needed to get.’ Just little stuff like that, and I think if you let it really bug you, I think it can make you depressed and feel sad. Like, ‘Wow I don’t have the memory I used to have.’ But, you know, I try to be relatively good-natured about it at this point.”
Though Thomas isn’t sure whether this memory loss is due to football or not, we have a sneaking suspicion being bashed repeatedly by other huge men about the head and neck have a big part in what he’s experiencing.
Regardless of whether it’s football or something else, Thomas said he’s willing to continue playing and accepts the risks involved in playing such a violent sport.
“You look at guys with significant Alzheimers and dementia and the mood swings and the suicides that unfortunately NFL players have been faced with,” Thomas said. “And depression. Lou Gehrig’s disease. These are all things that have kind of been linked to the brain damage from football.
“Those are obviously scary and frightening things, but I think from my perspective, I can’t do anything about it. This was the profession that I have already chosen and most of the damage has probably been done already. So what are the things that I can do to try to minimize my chances of having those negative effects down the line and then do everything I possibly can. Then I can’t worry about it. I have to accept it.
“But I do hope that medicine continues to improve and, in 10 years maybe, they’ll be able to fix my body better than they did for the poor guys who are crippled up from playing in the NFL in the ’60s and the ’70s.”
This is the attitude many NFL players have adopted in light of the ever increasing understanding we have about brain trauma. On the other hand, some young players have opted for early retirement in the light of this research. At the very least, players aren’t going into it blind any more like they used to. So at least they are able to make decisions with the full understanding they may never be the same after football.