More than a few current and former NFL players have recently expressed concern that they might have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease that studies have linked to the sorts of concussive and sub-concussive impacts common in football. On Monday, Boomer Esiason went a step further, claiming that he “likely” has the condition, as do “all football players.”
Esiason, a 56-year-old former NFL MVP who ended a 14-year career in 1997 and became a CBS football analyst, was discussing the issue on “Boomer and Carton,” his New York sports-radio show. Noting the deadline Monday for former NFL players to register for the league’s $1 billion settlement in a class-action lawsuit over its handling of brain injuries, Esiason was making the point that potential cases of CTE in living players — he thought such diagnoses might be possible in a few years’ time — were “carved out” of the settlement.
“If I died tomorrow and my brain basically was taken and researched and I was found to have CTE, which most likely I have,” he said, before co-host Craig Carton asked why he thought that was the case.
“Because I think all football players probably have it,” Esiason replied.
Esiason clarified that he thought many people who have suffered brain injuries in a variety of sports could be subject to CTE, or at least symptoms thereof. Noting that Carton had “played soccer,” the former Bengals, Jets and Cardinals quarterback told his co-host, “You’ve had a head injury, you’ve had a number of concussions yourself, you might have had a car wreck, where you hit your head or something like that — I wouldn’t be surprised if you had it, as well.”
His comments on CTE were couched in a more matter-of-fact way, but Esiason echoed some of the thoughts recently offered by Terrell Davis. Speaking on Friday, shortly before he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the former Broncos running back said, “I can’t lie, we’re all scared.”
“We’re concerned because we don’t know what the future holds,” the 44-year-old Davis said of himself and other ex-NFL players. “When I’m at home and I do something, if I forget something I have to stop to think, ‘Is this because I’m getting older or I’m just not using my brain, or is this an effect of playing football?’ I don’t know that.”
A study published in July bolstered the proposed link between football and CTE, as it found that 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players showed signs of the disease. “The time for denying facts and looking the other way is over,” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said in a release pegged to the study. “We must now actively seek out ways to protect the health and [well-being] of players from Pop Warner to the NFL and every league in between.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger referred to those results last month while musing about the possibility that this could be his final NFL season. “I know this new study that came out that 90 percent [of NFL] players’ brains who were studied had CTE. There’s a lot of scary things, and I think my wife would be okay if I hung it up, too,” he said.
On Monday, Esiason pointed out one positive in the news about CTE, saying, “The more we learn about our brains, the better it is for the guys who are playing today.” He added that “the good news for the guys who are playing today, especially the guys who have been playing for a long time,” was that “they get paid a hell of a lot more money than we ever did.”
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