Former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett was one of the greatest running backs of his era. During an 11-year span from 1977-1987, the Hall of Famer tallied 15,468 total yards and 85 touchdowns on over 3,100 touches.
Playing at a time when the National Football League didn’t focus on head injuries and trauma to the brain, Dorsett didn’t think too much about his long-term future and what playing in the NFL might do to him after retiring.
In a recent interview with the Dallas Morning News, Dorsett touched on how his post-NFL life has been impacted by continual blows to the head during his playing days.
I signed up for this when, I guess, I started playing football so many years ago. But, obviously, not knowing that the end was going to be like this. But I love the game. The game was good to me. It’s just unfortunate that I’m going through what I’m going through. I’m in the fight, man. I’m not just laying around letting this overtake me. I’m fighting. I’m in the battle. I’m hoping we can reverse this thing somehow.
Dorsett’s story sounds like so many before him—some of whom are no longer with us. The disease that Dorsett is battling is known as CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), which is a degenerative brain disease that many experts conclude is caused by multiple concussions and blows to the head.
Former NFL linebacker Junior Seau—a member of the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class—was diagnosed with CTE after he committed suicide in May of 2012. Seau’s suicide came in the form of a single gunshot wound to the chest, which is an indication that he wanted his brain to be studied for the disease.
Previously only diagnosed postmortem, recent scientific breakthroughs have enabled medical experts to get a read on whether living people are suffering through the disease.
Dorsett was diagnosed with CTE in November of 2013 after undergoing brain scans and evaluations at UCLA.
For his part, Dorsett has indicated that he’s gone through bouts with depression and dementia—both symptoms of CTE—over the years.
Here’s to hoping that Dorsett’s understanding of the disease and the symptoms it is causing can help him lead a semi-normal life moving forward. His willingness to speak out on the topic could also continue to lead to more awareness on the topic.
Photo: CBS Sports