Retired Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck revealed during an interview with Stacy Case of Fox 17 Nashville that he believes he has chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to a lifetime playing football.
"I’m sure," he said. "I'm sure the punishment I took and the concussions, the dings, for sure. You can't test for CTE unless you're dead."
He added: "From five until I was done at 33, and I added it up to 297 thousand collisions. I was a linebacker and I was a running back, so I was hitting with my head every single time."
Wycheck, 45, spent 11 seasons in the NFL between Washington and the Houston Oilers/Titans. He caught 505 passes for 5,126 yards and 28 touchdowns, and perhaps most famously threw the pass across the field in the Music City Miracle that won the 2000 wild-card matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
But following his career, Wycheck is exhibiting many of the symptoms of CTE.
"Migraine headaches, just being depressed, just not wanting to socialize, sensitivity to light," he told Case. "I go into a room and forget why I went there. You asked me and I'm just being honest."
Those symptoms have also caused him to fear what may be next if his condition worsens.
"Junior Seau, what caused him one day to put a shotgun to his chest and pull the trigger?" he said. "As former players, you're like, 'When is that going to happen to me? Is there a special pill I can take? Do I eat carrots? What do I do to prevent perhaps what is inevitable?' That's a stress that is on your mind daily."
CTE, and the head trauma potentially suffered while playing football, has become one of the primary storylines surrounding the NFL and its players. While the degenerative brain disease can only be discovered in death, the league has taken steps to better prevent, identify and treat concussions and other head and neck injuries.
That greater awareness—or the acknowledgment of that awareness from the NFL—came too late for Wycheck and his generation.
"Everyone thought we were crying about our injuries, woe is me," he said, explaining his decision to join the concussion lawsuit that former players levied against the NFL. "Why did we even play? But the NFL knew. The main NFL doctor came out and said that there isn't any long-term brain damage when you play football, so he basically lied and hid a lot of that information. That's the price you pay and to be honest with you, I wouldn't change a thing."
That lawsuit was ultimately settled, with the NFL set to pay $1 billion to 20,000 NFL retirees over the next 65 years, with individual players able to receive up to $5 million in cases of severe brain trauma, per CBS News.