Strokes: What did They Know and When Did They Know it?

As a few of my closest friend already know, I ended up in ICU exactly 2 weeks ago because of a hemorrhagic stroke. Totally unexpected and caught everyone off-guard – especially me! I was fortunate for many reasons, one of which was being able to recognize the symptoms quickly and then NOT being a typical guy in how I responded!

I was just sitting down to some lunch and a glass of water slipped out of my left hand. So when I got up to fetch a towel from the kitchen, my left leg gave out and I found myself stumbling around trying to catch my balance. My left side was feeling numb, like when you slept on your side too long and your circulation was cut off. I was fortunate enough to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and one of the guys living downstairs was home. So Jeff was able to rush me over to the hospital in 5 minutes. That was pure luck and everything came together to make it easier for recovery.

My initial reaction was that I might have been tired so perhaps I should head off to bed and take a short nap; which the doctors told me is how most people tend to react. Doing that would likely have ended disastrously – the neurosurgeon later told me that after reviewing my CT scans, my brain bleed was just 2 centimeters from causing total paralysis or even death, especially if I’d taken that common approach of shaking it off and going to bed! Thankfully, everything came together and here I am writing from home after being discharged from the ICU a week ago!

All of this happened literally days after a study had just been released by Craig Hospital and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) correlating the risk of stroke to be 10X higher for people who have suffered a TBI(s) in the past. Here’s the press release announcing their long-term study:

Craig Hospital/CDC Study Published in Stroke Finds Tenfold Higher Stroke Risk in TBI Patients

Study led by Craig Hospital with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the rate of stroke incidence 10 times higher in patients with traumatic brain injury

| Source: Craig Hospital

Englewood, Colo., July 21, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The findings from a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at Craig Hospital—a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital and research center that specializes in the care of people who have sustained a spinal cord and/or a brain injury—along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have been published in the latest edition of the American Heart Association’s journal, Stroke. The study, titled “Acute Ischemic Stroke After Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: Incidence and Impact on Outcome” found that many individuals who experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) also suffer an acute stroke at the time of injury.

The study is the first to evaluate and characterize the risk factors and incidence of acute ischemic stroke (AIS) in the hours or days immediately after experiencing a TBI, and its role in outcome for these severely injured patients.

“The findings of this investigation are potentially important for patients who present initially with brain trauma but quickly develop stroke that may not immediately be recognized,” said Robert Kowalski, MD, MS, principal investigator at Craig Hospital, who led the stroke research project. “This is particularly true in younger patients, for whom a stroke suspicion may be low in the emergency department setting, but for whom a stroke may cause lifelong deficits.”

You can read the rest of their press release by clicking HERE.

And as some of you also know, I had a serious concussion myself 7 years ago in 2010 after a severe rearend collision on the freeway going though downtown Seattle on a clear summer day.

While I could never begin to imagine what most of my retired NFL buddies have endured over the years, I can honestly say that these personal experiences truly make me even more empathetic to what each of you is going through on a daily basis. And then there’s this: Of the 111 brains tested for CTE so far, 110 were found to have CTE!

CTE found in 99% of studied brains from deceased NFL players

Updated 3:26 PM ET, Wed July 26, 2017

(CNN)Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, was found in 99% of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated toscientific research, according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.

The neurodegenerative brain disease can be found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head trauma. The disease is pathologically marked by a buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that can disable neuropathways and lead to a variety of clinical symptoms. These include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and sometimes suicidal behavior.
It can only be formally diagnosed with an autopsy, and most cases, although not all, have been seen in either veterans or people who played contact sports, particularly American football.
“There’s no question that there’s a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease,” said Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center and coauthor of the new study. “And we urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”
Read the rest of this story on CNN by clicking HERE.
Sorry for tossing so much information out there all at once. But the point I want to make here (actually a couple of them) will become very clear in a minute – if I can stay focused long enough! Most of us know how much information the NFL has certainly had access to over the years on each player’s health and injury history. Hell – it’s often used against you when applying for your disability benefits and it certainly follows you around for the rest of your lives after you leave the game. And most of it likely ended up in the hands of one of the largest insurance companies in America – AON Corp. And why does that name ring a bell once again? The McCaskey family happens to be among the largest stockholders and upper management. And they also happen to have owned and managed the Chicago Bears… for many decades. Hmmm.

So the question once again comes down toWhat did they know and when did they know it? It’s all about details and stats 24/7. After all, how else would the bookies know all the odds when it domes down to accurately predicting and gaming the spreads? So does anyone think it’s a stretch that the NFL has probably already known about the high likelihood of strokes among football players compared to the general population?

So my hope is that some of you will post your personal experiences with strokes after you retired from the game. I know I’ve heard a few of your stories over the years. And if you have a longer story to share, let me know and maybe we can even make a full post out of your story just like we did when this blog first started. Putting everyone’s story out there will educate the public – especially fans – so the size and scope is finally exposed once again, just as when we first pointed out how over 95% of retired players were being denied access to their EARNED benefits over the years. The more we can publicize this, the better.

Hopefully, some of the lawyers will see this. And  – fingers crossed – someone at the PA will also read this and realize that this might need to be specifically addressed in the next CBA.

And I’m still here just as each of you are too! Bring it on!

P.S. – EDITOR’S NOTE: Almost forgot to pass this along: Like many of you, I’ve also been enjoying the benefit of Omega3 fish oils for brain healing and controlling inflammation. I was taking between 8 – 10 grams a day and I know many of you guys have been taking even more. But one of the doctors told me that too much of a good thing can also have consequences. Turns out that fish oils can also act as a blood thinner, which in the case of a stroke, may have adverse effects. Who knew?!!

Please be sure to discuss this with your care providers asap to get the best advice for your needs!


Strokes: What did They Know and When Did They Know it? — 4 Comments

  1. I had a TBI in 2001. A roll over car accident. I am fortunate that my TBI was not as bad as others.To the outside world, I look and sound normal. The effects of the TBI changed this college-educated person to a cashier. Many side effects: Vision, memory, emotions, weakness on the left side. A book I was writing at the time cannot ever be finished.

    Now, just a few weeks ago I had a small stroke. The neurologist did not want to label it as a stroke because it did not show up on the MRI. I only have a frozen left side of the face around the eye and a frozen left leg below the knee. I have never had bad cholesterol. A scope showed my heart and neck vessels were as clear as pipes. I had none of the predisposing problems, so she thought it could not have been a stroke. The other regular doctor thought it was a stroke. The only predisposition was a TBI which she said she had never read literature on.

    My face is still frozen, as is my leg. So a TIA is also ruled out. I can only hope more research is done on this.


  2. Roman Gabriel

    Had a stroke right side/left side about 8 years ago, followed by heart failure! But fortunate in being able to recover because of great doctors and meds after a year-long rehabilitation program and God’s help!

    Roman Gabriel
    16-Year Vet, RG18
    LA Rams, Philadelphia Eagles
    1962 – 1978

  3. RobertinSeattle

    Thanks, Don.

    Again, it would seem like the body of knowledge certainly precluded that recent Craig CDC study!

    So if that’s been very clear, why didn’t the League – particularly the Bears – inform their players of the high risk? Duh! And you have to wonder why several of those insurance companies have already started to fold in their lawsuits with the NFL? Like they all had something to hide.

    It’s becoming more obvious SOMEONE knew…

  4. Don Brady


    Glad to hear you possessed the savvy to recognize and seek immediate assistance for your stroke. Thanks also, for sharing your recent experience.

    Consistent with the research article you listed RE: the link between a TBI and stroke, a related perusal of concussion/brain injury literature also reveals the same correlation between the occurrence of a brain injury and a subsequent stroke.

    More than 30 years ago, Reitan & Wolfson (1986) pointed out that cerebral ischemia can arise from a brain injury. These authors asserted that cerebral ischemia may result from direct trauma to blood vessels (including the major arteries and venous tributaries – p. 9).

    This type of ischemia involves a restriction or impairment in blood supply to brain tissues (American Heart Association / American Stroke Association – 2017).

    In addition, this documented medical relationship between a concussion and stroke underscores the further importance of removing athletes from sport participation when a concussion is either suspected or occurs.

    Given a plausible relationship between a brain injury and stroke, it should not be considered a fluke if an athlete or any individual suffers a stroke after experiencing a concussion

    Links and citations to various articles pertaining to the relationship between concussions and strokes follow:

    1- How Head Injuries Seem To Affect The Risk For Stroke

    2- Brain Injury May Raise Stroke Risk

    3- When the Game Goes Dark –

    Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen thought he had his bell rung against the Bills in Week 15 last season. He played through the injury and double vision, but two days later found out he’d suffered a stroke on the field.

    4- Please see the below three citations and the numerous references found in each article:

    Kieslich, M., Fiedler, A., Heller, C., Kreuz, W., & Jacobi, G. (2002). Minor head injury as cause and co-factor in the aetiology of stroke in childhood: A report of eight cases. Journal of Neurology and Neurosurgery Psychiatry, 73(1), 13–16.

    J Child Neurol. 2014 Sep;29(9):NP65-8. doi: 10.1177/0883073813500850. Epub 2013 Sep 26. Lacunar stroke in a teenager after minor head trauma: case report and literature review. Zwank MD, Dummer BW, Danielson LT, Haake BC.

    W V Med J. 2014 May-Jun;110(3):20-1. Acute ischemic stroke in a 19 month old following minor head trauma: case report and review of the literature. Garla V, Pino E, Coulon R, Wolfer R.

    Minor head trauma is a very rare cause of ischemic stroke in the pediatric population. We describe a nineteen month old patient who developed left hemiparesis and subsequently left facial palsy after a fall.

    5- Reitan, R. & Wolfson, D. (1986). Pathophysiology and Neuropsychology Evaluation [Volume 1]. Neuropsychology Press.

    6- Let’s talk about Ischemic Stroke – American Heart Association / American Stroke Association [downloaded May 6, 2017]

    7- A psychologist’s personal experience with a life changing concussion/brain injury

    Published on November 29, 2016 — Linkedin

    A psychologist’s personal experience with a life changing concussion/brain injury


    Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, NCSP
    Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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