Mayo Doctor Says CTE Concerns are Overblown

Posted at: 12/20/2013 6:34 PM
By: Sean Boswell


(ABC 6 NEWS) -- "It's painful for my daughters to say they're afraid of me," said Hall of Fame NFL running back Tony Dorsett told ESPN.

All the hits Dorsett took during his career may have come at a horrible price. He has CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been found in the brains of former NFL players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, and former MLB player Ryan Freel, all of whom committed suicide.

"You know, I've thought about crazy stuff, sorta like why do I need to continue going through this... I mean I'm too smart of a person I'd like to think to take my life, but, it's crossed my mind," said Dorsett.

“There's a bunch of very tragic case studies, but there isn't yet a population based study that shows what the behavioral cognitive manifestations are yet of CTE, the research just isn't there yet," said Mayo Clinic clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Tom Bergquist.

Bergquist says brain injuries and concussions are a concern, but the thought of CTE being a death sentence is being overblown.

"I’ve seen some parents who, yeah they’re concerned they've had a concussion, but they've been scared that their child is doomed to shorter life span, they're gonna get dementia when they're young, and they're gonna kill themselves," said Dr. Bergquist.

Dr. Bergquist also says that while football is a dangerous game, parents shouldn't be scared away from letting their children play it.

"NFL players as a group live longer than other individuals of comparative backgrounds, and have a lower suicide rate," said Bergquist.

"My memory.... It's getting worse and worse as the days go by," said Dorsett.

So while Dorsett continues his struggle, it's not clinically proven that everyone with CTE will have the same issues.

CTE is typically not identified or diagnosed until death. According to Dr. Bergquist, 95% of people who suffer concussions recover just fine. However, if someone has multiple concussions, there is more concern about what the future may hold.