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The long-term effect of head injuries: one man's story

One of the threads we’ve been following in this blog is the emerging research about the long-term effects of brain injuries.

One of the most prominent places that this research is getting attention outside the scientific research community is in the ongoing story about severe brain injuries suffered by pro football players.

In the last few years, there has been more awareness of how the cumulative effect of multiple blows to the head can cause harm to football and even soccer players. In this post, let’s look at how one National Football League player who is now retired is trying to cope with his head injuries, decades after those injuries began taking a toll.

As we noted in our December 28 post, such cases include a very high-profile one from the San Diego area. Family members of former Charges linebacker Junior Seau believe that his suicide a couple years ago was linked to brain injuries sustained playing football.

Last week, during the run-up to this year’s Super Bowl, another former player stepped forward to tell his brain-injury story.

Former Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Rayfield Wright, a member of the pro football Hall of Fame, told of being slapped so hard on the side of his helmet that he lost consciousness.

The play occurred in the very first game that Wright started. Looking back on it now, Wright believes he may have sustained a concussion on that play. And over the next 13 years, he suffered many more head injuries.

Such injuries often take many years to show their full effects. But Wright is now suffering from worsening dementia that he attributes to head injuries from playing football. His symptoms include difficulty with concentrating, seizures and personality changes.

The personality changes are perhaps the hardest to deal with of all. They have turned a once-caring and thoughtful man into one who has made many doubtful decisions about his finances and in his personal life.

Another frequent cause of serious brain injuries is of course car accidents. For people who suffered brain injuries in such accidents, it can take a long time for the full extent of the damage to show itself.

Source: The New York Times, "For a Cowobys Star With Dementia, Time Is Running Out," Juliet Macur, Jan. 26, 2014

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