The NFL's concussion crisis has a new face: Tony Dorsett.
The Hall of Fame running back is among three living, former NFL standouts diagnosed with early signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), as first reported by ESPN's "Outside The Lines" on Wednesday. Early signs of the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma were observed in Dorsett, fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure and former All-Pro Leonard Marshall during brain scans and evaluations at UCLA, doctors told ESPN.
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Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994, Dorsett played 10 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before finishing his career with the Denver Broncos in 1988. The winner of the 1976 Heisman Trophy, Dorsett was among the thousands of players involved in a concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL that was settled in August for $765 million.
Even before the "Outside The Lines" report, Dorsett suspected he had CTE, leading to his consultation with doctors at UCLA.
“I was in UCLA talking to some doctors there and come to find out they kind of feel it can be reversed,” Dorsett told CBS Pittsburgh while in his home state for a reunion of the 1976 national champion Pittsburgh football team. “They know it can be slowed down, cut it off at the path.”
Dorsett, 59, has been dealing memory loss that led him to believe he may be facing CTE.
“I take my kids to practice for years, and all of a sudden, I don’t know how to get there,” Dorsett told CBS Pittsburgh, explaining the cognitive difficulties he has been facing. “Those kinds of things, it’s very frustrating. It makes me mad; it’s just a real frustrating thing I’m going through, but again, I’m trying to be proactive rather than inactive and trying to cut it off.”
Following "Outside The Lines" reporting he had been diagnosed as showing early signs of CTE, Dorsett spoke with The Dallas Morning News about the impact that the ESPN report had on him.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks," Dorsett said of watching his diagnosis scroll across the ticker on ESPN.