While there is plenty of excitement surrounding the NFL with Sunday’s Super Bowl rapidly approaching, the issue of concussions and the resulting health problems for retired players still lingers over the game.
Former San Francisco 49ers great Ronnie Lott was asked Wednesday if he is worried about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE, and said, per Jimmy Durkin and Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, "Everyone should think they have it and then work to slow it down by working to have a better life. ... As far as symptoms, I don't have anything."
Lott was asked the question following news that former Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler was diagnosed with CTE posthumously, per a Wednesday report by John Branch of the New York Times, citing researchers at Boston University. According to CNN.com, CTE is “a degenerative disease of the brain and is associated with repeated head traumas like concussions.”
Durkin and Brown also noted Lott recently appeared at Santa Clara University to discuss the movie Concussion and said, "Clearly there are a number of people in this room that might have CTE, including me. But if you know me, I refuse to accept that, because I believe in all of us, we have the capacity to do whatever we want, despite having concussions. God knows it."
Durkin and Brown passed along another quote from Lott in Newsday regarding the league’s future dealings with the disease:
We were able to discover this disease, now we have to combat it. To me, that's the next step and the next evolution of football. Hopefully in Super Bowl 60, we're talking about the things that people are doing [to combat the symptoms of CTE] and hopefully at that point it will allow us to be even better athletes and better human beings.
Lott’s comments come in the wake of concussions reaching a four-year high during the 2015 season, according to injury data released by the league. Concussions around the NFL actually dropped for three straight seasons before the one-year spike.
Between the increase in concussions this season, the movie Concussion, which stars Will Smith, and more reports of CTE among players who have died, head trauma is still making worrisome headlines in the NFL.
Branch said the list of players with CTE is “now well over 100” and “includes at least seven members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Junior Seau, Mike Webster and Frank Gifford.”
Branch also noted “Stabler is the seventh former NFL quarterback to be diagnosed with CTE by Boston University, which says it has found CTE in 90 of the 94 former NFL players it has examined, including the former [New York] Giants safety Tyler Sash, who died in September at age 27.”
Lott was known for his hard hits in the middle of the field as a Hall of Fame defensive back. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler, six-time first-team All-Pro and also won four rings with the San Francisco 49ers.