Cowboys Great Tony Dorsett Puts Face on NFL CTE Crisis

New York Daily News series shows scale of impact of brain trauma on former players.

Tony Dorsett #33, Running Back for the Dallas Cowboys in September 1987. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images)

While much of the concentration on the NFL is on the players who take a knee during the National Anthem to protest racial disparities in the country, there is a much larger crisis that could effect the long-term health of the league.

And the long-term health of the players who suit up every Sunday.

A four-part investigative series in The New York Daily News kicked off Sunday with a spotlight on former Dallas Cowboys great Tony Dorsett — one of the many league veterans who is showing signs of the degenerative brain condition, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.

The now 63-year-old legendary running back can recall minute details and anecdotes from his Hall of Fame career, but struggles to remember what happened five minutes earlier. His short-term memory has been sacked, likely by years of jarring hits and concussions. His mood swings used to scare his daughters.

“If you play as long as I did, you are going to have something wrong with you,” Dorsett told News football columnist Gary Myers.

Dorsett took part in brain research tests at UCLA in 2013, but because CTE can only be conclusively determined after death, doctors believe he has the condition and is undergoing what limited treatment options currently exist.

“They know I got it. I’ve had some trauma to my brain. CTE is diagnosed when you are dead and gone. They can see what I have is probably what it is,” Dorsett added.

Myers speculates that despite the NFL adding 47 rule changes to make the game safer, “The NFL is in trouble.

“Maybe not next year or in five years or even in 10 years. But concussions and CTE and early Alzheimer’s and potentially — but hopefully not — more players added to the list of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson and Andre Waters who consider suicide a better alternative than living with a brain damaged by too many football concussions,” he writes.

“Maybe 20 years from now the only kids playing football will come from the impoverished corners of this country who view the prospect of making it to the NFL as their only way out.”

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