Tony Dorsett, a Hall of Fame running back, says he started playing football “not knowing that the end was going to be like this” — what he calls a frustrating battle with a condition caused by head trauma that can lead to dementia and depression.
DALLAS – Tony Dorsett, a Hall of Fame running back, says he started playing football “not knowing that the end was going to be like this” — what he calls a frustrating battle with a condition caused by head trauma that can lead to dementia and depression.
The former Heisman Trophy winner at Pittsburgh and Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys was diagnosed in 2013 as having signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition. Dorsett told a Dallas-area radio station last week he loves football and it was “good to me.”
“It’s just unfortunate that I’m going through what I’m going through,” the 60-year-old Dorsett said. “I’m in the fight, man. I’m not just laying around letting this overtake me. I’m hoping we can reverse this thing somehow.”
In an interview with The Associated Press in 2012, Dorsett discussed the toll his career took on his body and brain, detailing a helmet-to-helmet hit in a 1984 game that knocked him out. He called it the hardest hit he received.
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“That ain’t the first time I was knocked out or been dazed over the course of my career, and now I’m suffering for it,” Dorsett told the AP three years ago. “And the NFL is trying to deny it.”
Dorsett and thousands of former players have accused the league of long hiding what it knew about concussions and brain injuries to keep players on the field. Dorsett opted out of a settlement between the NFL and former players that could end up paying out $1 billion. He said he wanted his case to stand on its merits.
Dorsett rushed for 12,739 yards in 12 seasons, 11 with the Cowboys and one with Denver. He won his only Super Bowl when he was a rookie after the 1977 season.
Dorsett told the radio station he often forgets how to get to places he has visited for years. He has previously said he was troubled by short-tempered moments with his family.
“Some days are good. Some days are bad,” said Dorsett, who held the NCAA career rushing record for 22 years with 6,082 yards before Texas’ Ricky Williams surpassed it in 1998. “I signed up for this when, I guess, I started playing football so many years ago. But, obviously, not knowing that the end was going to be like this.”
Dorsett said he would still encourage young athletes, including those in his family, to play football.
“I would just be a little bit more concerned about certain injuries,” he said. “When I was playing, my whole mentality was that if I could walk I’d play. Obviously, there’s been a lot done for head injuries. They know a lot more about the brain and head trauma that can be created because of being knocked unconscious so many times.”
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