Add one more name to the list of NFL players who are paying the price for the brain damage they suffered playing in the NFL.
Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp posted a video on The Players Tribune Tuesday saying he’s losing his memory at the age of 44 and will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after he dies.
“I wanted this game to be better when I left than when I got into it,’’ he said.
Looking at the video, you would never guess Sapp has a problem. He sounds the same way he did as a player, when he could always talk a good game even if some of his off-field actions were problematic.
Now he is very candid about the problems he is dealing with.
“It’s scary to think that my brain may be deteriorating,’’ he said.
He said the legends of the game, the Hall of Famers, always have difficulty going public with their problems.
“There’s no way any of us wanna really admit that we can’t remember how to get home, or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids at school, or whatever it may be,’’ he said, according to an ESPN transcription.
‘’You try to (say) ‘All right, I’m gonna get more sleep, maybe it’s something I did last night, maybe something I drank. Or whatever it is. You try to find a reason that it’s not that it’s my brain. That I’m not deteriorating right before my eyes,’’ he said.
“It’s the most frightening feeling, but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child,’’ he said. “I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed in the dead of night.’’
“I used to call myself an elephant in the room,’’ he said. “Never forget anything. Man, I wake up now and be like, “OK, what are we doing? Let me get the phone.’ I mean with the reminders in the phones, it really helped me get through the day with appointments and different things that I have to do, because it’s just, I can’t remember anymore like I used to.’’
He endorsed the things the NFL has done in recent years to make the game safer and hopes it will do more.
“Let’s keep making the game better,’’ he said.
He also said youngsters shouldn’t play tackle football until high school.
We probably won’t know for another 20 years whether the NFL’s efforts to make the game safer will mean fewer players suffer from brain damage in the future.
For now, though, the players who suffered brain damage back in the day will continue to show symptoms in coming years. It’s too late for them. There is no cure for brain damage.
And nobody knows why some players suffer brain damage and others don’t. And why some players show effects at age 44 and others don’t until much later in life.
Sapp mentioned that Nick Buoniconti of the Dolphins has gone public with his problems. So did Jim Kiick, a teammate of Buoniconti’s in Miami.
Talking about how violent the game used to be, Sapp said, “We were dinosaurs.’’
Sapp said he decided to go public after he got emails from Fred Willis, a former player and president/CEO of PHN Neurologic dedicated to solving the concussion crisis.
Willis was diagnosed in 2009 with liver disease and Hepatic Encephalopathy. He’s had a liver transplant.
Sapp said Willis’ email included quotes from NFL owners trying to minimize the concussion crisis in the past. Sapp called that “foolish stuff.”
Sapp didn’t mention that it won’t be a surprise if his condition gets worse over the years.
Sapp’s decision to go public is another reminder that the NFL’s top priority – even over making more money – should be to make the game safer for the players.