This is the story of a World Champion. This is the story of “a stud”. He played a brutal game in a more brutal time and played it at the highest level. He made people “smell pain.” And for his accomplishments and his efforts, he has a few other trinkets apart from his Super Bowl ring.
He has chronic traumatic brain injury, frontal and temporal lobe disorders, generalized seizure disorder and cognitive impairment. He believes he also suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease similar to Alzheimer’s that has been linked to absorbing repeated blows to the head. He has a bum knee, too, and a right arm he can barely lift over his head. His kidney stones burn like hot coals. He sometimes goes four days without sleeping.
The sport made Visger a man. Now it is unmaking him. “He lost his family, his job, his life,” says his mother. “It’s like a ripple.”
On a postcard-perfect Southern California morning, George Visger is pissing blood. This comes as a relief. For me, mostly. But also for him. Things could be worse. He could be having a seizure. Or slipping into a coma. Which means I could be jamming a one-inch butterfly needle into a thumbnail-sized hole in the side of his skull, trying to siphon off excess spinal fluid while avoiding what Visger calls “the white stuff.” The white stuff being brain tissue.
In addition to his other ailments, he suffers from hydrocephalus, a medical condition also known as “water on the brain.” In healthy people, spinal fluid circulates through and drains from the brain; in Visger’s case, concussion-induced scar tissue blocks that flow. The resulting intracranial pressure ultimately can result in coma and death, crushing his brain from the inside out.
The compression, Visger says, feels like a beer can being shoved into the middle of his skull.
If you are a football player or have football players in your family, please read this entire article:
George Visger, The Damage Done by Patrick Hruby (ESPN.comM)