Joe Thomas Says He's Experiencing Memory Loss, 'Willing to Accept' Risks of NFL

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 24:  Joe Thomas #73 of the Cleveland Browns jogs off the field during a game against the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  The Browns defeated the Chargers 20-17.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Longtime Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas revealed he's already starting to experience memory loss but isn't sure whether the issue is directly related to his football career. 

On Wednesday, Patrick McManamon of ESPN.com passed along the comments Thomas made during an appearance on In Depth With Graham Bensinger, and the 32-year-old tackle said he's "willing to accept" whatever inherent risk comes with playing in the NFL:

I definitely expect memory loss. I'm already seeing memory loss, and maybe that's just because of my old age or maybe it's football, it's hard to tell.

I mean, there's no double-blind studies when it comes to people's life. It's just a part, I think, of sometimes getting older. And it's hard to tell it's because of football or because you're 32 and you're not 21 anymore and you have a lot of stuff going in your life.

Thomas went on to tell Bensinger there are risks regardless of profession. So while the possibility of brain damage is a "concern," it's not unique to the sport:

If I was a stone mason or if I was a painter or building bridges or whatever, there's going to be some wear and tear on your body and your brain. And that's just the way it is.

To be able to live the lifestyle and provide for my family the way that football has been able to do, to me it's a trade-off that I'm willing to accept.

Here's a look at more of the one-on-one interview with the 10-time Pro Bowl selection:

In recent years, as more research has surfaced about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease connected to repeated blows to the head, the long-term effects of playing football have come under close scrutiny.

Linemen on both sides of the ball, like Thomas, could be at the greatest risk.

In 2015, Jason M. Breslow of PBS provided research results from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University. Ninety-six percent of all NFL players studied showed signs of CTE, and a considerable percentage of them were linemen:

Forty percent of those who tested positive were the offensive and defensive linemen who come into contact with one another on every play of a game, according to numbers shared by the brain bank with Frontline. That finding supports past research suggesting that it’s the repeat, more minor head trauma that occurs regularly in football that may pose the greatest risk to players, as opposed to just the sometimes violent collisions that cause concussions.

In January, the NFL released data from QuintilesIMS Injury Surveillance and Analytics that showed an 11.3 percent decrease in the number of reported concussions from 2015 to 2016. Health and Safety Advisory Committee Chairman Dr. John York said the league also has seen more players voluntarily alert teams that they could be dealing with head injuries.

We've also seen an increase in self-reported concussions this year over last year, with last year being the first year that we really saw a significant number of self-reported concussions. So those all are all good changes with regards to the concussion protocol. And I would also say that they have an effect that may cause an increase in the number of concussions that we identify.

In December, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the league's concussion settlement with former players, which allowed individual payments to begin. The settlement could result in as much as $1 billion in payouts.