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Football trauma study shows severe problems

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POSTED: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 6:50pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 7:58pm

We’ve heard a lot lately about the dangers of head trauma and now, a new study explains how great those dangers are. But the information comes too late for one Tyler family who experienced the problem firsthand.

The problem is now so well known, it has parents rethinking the idea of letting their children play football. And according to one local family, they are right to do so.

When David Lunceford’s obituary ran in the paper in 2009, many remember him as a civic minded local businessman. He served on the boards of TJC and the Heritage Land Bank after retiring from a long career in the oil business. But many didn’t know he was an All-American football player at both TJC and Baylor. He then went on to play in the NFL for the then-Chicago Cardinals for 1 seasons starting in 1957.He played on the line.

“He got hit in a game,” Hartwig says. “He played the rest of the game but doesn’t remember it.  He didn’t remember the bus ride home.  He didn’t remember anything the rest of that day. And he played both ways. He played defense and offense. So, he was out there the whole time, taking hits on offence and hits on defense.”

When he developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s, his family wondered if the persistent beating football involved could be a cause.
“My mom and dad suspected when he first started having signs of neurological problems, that it was more chronic head trauma than Alzheimer’s,”  she told us.

A group called the Sports Legacy Institute asked if the family would donate his brain for study of what is known as CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. That is, disorders caused by constant hits to the head.

The families of many other athletes from high school to the pros have donated their brains to the study after death. The results were published this month and show that of the 35 former NFL players, 34 showed signs of the condition.

The late Alex Karras was said to have suffered debilitating headaches as a result of his pro career. But Hartwig is gratified they made the decision to get involved.

“He would definitely take some comfort knowing that he was able to help,” Hartwig says. “Would you let your son play football, knowing what you know now, knowing what you saw with your dad?” we asked. “No. I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t let one of mine do it. I would never put one of my family members through what we went through with my dad.”

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