It's been a good few years for San Francisco football. Construction is underway for a new stadium in Santa Clara, the 49ers made the playoffs last year and the team is currently at the top of its division.
But a darker local story has cast a shadow on the team's bright future--one that is beginning to eclipse the entire NFL.
CBS San Francisco recently reported on the story of Terry Tautolo, a former linebacker who played for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s. Though Tautolo spent nine seasons with the NFL, including the famous 1981 49ers Super Bowl season of "the Catch," he has spent much of his retirement battling dementia, anger management problems and homelessness.
The suspected cause: concussions sustained during his career with the NFL.
"What this game does to you, people have no clue," said Tautolo's former 49er teammate George Visger to CBS.
Visger also suffered from career-ending concussions, and has since undergone nine brain surgeries. After successfully suing the NFL for worker's compensation to cover his medical bills, he urged Tautolo to visit his doctor, as well.
According to CBS, Tautolo hesitated to blame his football injuries for his problems, but has wondered about a possible correlation.
"I had one [hit] in my ninth year, I got dinged," he said. "What they call you is a paper head. I wasn't going to take another hit like that. It would have left me paralyzed."
The Huffington Post reached out to the 49ers, but the team declined to comment.
Tautolo's and Visger's are sadly two of many similar stories in the NFL.
Earlier this year, the football community was rocked by the death of Junior Seau, a famed former San Diego Charger who apparently shot himself in the chest. One year earlier, former Bears safety Dave Duerson also shot himself in the chest—but not before leaving a note requesting that his brain be given to the NFL's brain bank for testing. An autopsy reportedly showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease associated with depression and dementia and believed to be caused by head injuries.
"When football players get dinged, they go back and play," ex-New England Patriot Ted Johnson told the Lowell Sun in 2007. "You can see [a player's] arm with the bone broke, ripped out of the skin. But you can't see the damage of a concussion."
Visger hopes to shed some light on said damage.
"None of us want to ask for help," he told CBS. "I wish I never played the game."
Visit CBS for the rest of Tautolo's story, and watch the video report below: