“I think we’re getting there,” said Barry Jordan, a renown neurologist who studies the effects of brain trauma on athletes. “I think there’s still a lot that we don’t know.”
The need is great, however, as studies have shown strong links between head trauma in football and depression, dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Half-jokingly, Jordan calls it dementia footballistica.
Amen operates four for-profit clinics, including one in Reston. He says the price of rehabilitating the brain can cost $5,000-$6,000 per athlete. Using hyperbaric oxygen treatments would double the cost.
His clients say the results justify the price tag and they are hopeful the NFL eventually agrees to medical monitoring.
“It’s amazing where I am now compared with where I’ve come from,” said Anthony Davis, the former running back whose USC career earned him induction in the College Football Hall of Fame. “It‘s scary what my head used to be like.”
When Davis first met Amen in 2006, Davis was 54 years old with a brain that looked like that of an 85-year-old. He was more than 100 pounds overweight and diabetic, suffering from sleep apnea and high blood pressure. He’d leave his home and have to return two or more times to make sure he locked the door.
“I’m telling you, if it wasn’t for him, I’d just be deteriorating,” Davis said. “This thing, it’s like a silent death.”
Davis played five years professionally, including two in the NFL. He says he’s “one of the lucky ones” because he had only two diagnosed concussions.
“It took me many years to screw it up,” Davis said, “so it’ll take me some years to rehab it, too, to bring back some normalcy. It‘s a process, but I can feel the results.”