Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett was one of four former NFL players recently diagnosed with early signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE, doctors told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”
According to ESPN, Dorsett, fellow Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure, former All-Pro Leonard Marshall and an as-yet unidentified fourth former player have undergone brain scans and been evaluated by doctors at UCLA over the past three months. During the exams, the report said, doctors discovered a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein that indicates CTE and constricts brain cells in areas that control memory and emotions, among other functions. The protein was also discovered in autopsies of former players Junior Seau and Mike Webster.
CTE, a condition scientists believe is brought on by repeated head trauma, has been linked to cases of depression and dementia, particularly cases involving former football players in recent years.
Dorsett appeared on ESPN’s "Dan LeBatard Is Highly Questionable" show Wednesday and confirmed the UCLA tests. The former Dallas Cowboys legend also admitted to problems with memory, emotional distress and thoughts of suicide.
"I've thought about crazy stuff, sort of like, 'Why do I need to continue going through this?' " said Dorsett, who admitting to getting lost while driving to places he’s been to many times before. "I'm too smart of a person, I like to think, to take my life, but it's crossed my mind."
The 59-year old also said he boarded a flight to Los Angeles for the testing at UCLA, but had repeated difficulty remembering why he was onboard the plane during the flight, a common occurrence for him.
Dorsett said he’s prone to outbursts at his family members, including his wife, and has been diagnosed as clinically depressed.
"It's painful, man, for my daughters to say they're scared of me,” Dorsett told ESPN.
Dorsett, who retired following the 1988 season, said he knows his problems were caused by playing football, a sentiment DeLamielleure seconded.
“I can guarantee you my CTE, my tau, came from hits, came from blows to the head,” DeLamielleure told “Outside the Lines.”
The former offensive lineman said he was never diagnosed with a concussion during his 13-year career.
“When I sit still for any length of time, I get depressed for no reason," said DeLamielleure, who also told ESPN he suffers from mood swings, suicidal thoughts and anxiety. "I have CTE.”
The NFL declined to comment in ESPN’s story. Dorsett, DeLamielleure and Marshall were plaintiffs in the class-action concussion lawsuit that both parties agreed to settle for $765 million.