Brett Favre: 'I've had hundreds, probably thousands' of concussions
Brett Favre pulls no punches when he talks about concussions.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame and former Packers quarterback said youth as old as 15 should not play tackle football and he believes he may have suffered thousands of concussions during his lifetime in the game.
Favre made the comments Thursday on NBC News' Megyn Kelly TODAY program, where he was joined by former professional athletes Abby Wambach, David Ross and Kurt Warner. All four are investors in a company developing Prevasol, a concussion-treatment drug now undergoing clinical trials. It has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Favre said he had three or four diagnosed concussions, but concussion researcher Dr. Bennet Omalu has said that "getting dinged," as players call it, is the same as a concussion.
"When you have ringing of the ears, seeing stars, that is a concussion," Favre said. "If that is a concussion, I've had hundreds, probably thousands, throughout my career, which is frightening."
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Omalu was the discoverer of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries. It can cause a wide range of issues, including dementia, memory loss, rage and more.
"It has gotten a lot worse in regards to short-term (memory); simple words that would normally come out easy in a conversation, I will stammer," Favre said. "And look, I am 48 years old ... could it just be, as we all like to say, as we get a little bit older, I forgot my keys and they were in my hand. Or, 'Where are my glasses?' and they are on my head. I wonder if that is what it is, or do I have early stages of CTE — I don't know."
It is difficult for athletes to admit the risk. Wambach, a World Cup and Olympic gold medal-winning soccer player who was known for hitting the ball with her head, said she was a naive kid who didn't want to face the truth. She suspects that's true of many athletes while they are still playing.
"You don't want to know because you are in it. You have to pay your mortgage, you are representing your country or your club, vying for this championship, and you have worked your whole life for it," she said. "And as you get closer to your retirement and then you get into your retirement, that is when you start really thinking about, 'What have I done here?'"
Football isn't the only sport with concussion issues. Soccer, hockey, baseball and other sports all put athletes at risk.
Favre said athletes tend to ignore the risk, and that's all the more reason to take steps to better protect young athletes.
"The brain and just the skull itself, for (eight to 15-year-olds), and maybe even older, is not developed enough and they should not be playing tackle football," Favre said. "We should protect them, especially when there is no treatment solution out there. Hopefully, Prevasol is that treatment."
Prevasol is a neural steroid designed to reduce swelling, inflammation and oxidative stress, according to developer Jacob Vanlandingham. It could treat concussion immediately by use of a nasal injector.
It wasn't until the 18th year of his 20 years in pro football that a concussion protocol was put in place, Favre said. Before that, including during this high school and college years, it was all about being tough.
"The thought process then was you would never come out of a game or a practice because you had a little head ding," he said. "It was a matter of being tough. Now what we know, it has nothing to do with toughness."
People sometimes comment on his physical condition, but Favre said that won't help him if he develops CTE.
"No matter what I do to take care of myself physically, that is a part of my future that I really can't control and that is really, really very scary."