The NFL has had a number of former players take issue with the league thanks to the prevalence of health problems seen later in player's lives. That includes the presence of CTE, and unfortunately, another name has been added to that growing list.
You might know Mike Adamle from his work on NBC 5 as a sports anchor, or you could know him from his days of playing in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, and Chicago Bears. He went on to announce for American Gladiators and even became the Monday Night RAW general manager in WWE.
For awhile now though he's been fighting a much different kind of battle, a battle fought in secret and off camera (via NBC Chicago). He's been off of tv since last March, and when asked why he said “I’ve been on short-term disability and then long-term disability. I’ve had seizures and epilepsy for the last 19 years. [My doctor said] we see some things that are concurrent with CTE. And I’m going, ‘What? How can you say that? I thought it was supposed to happen after you pass away."
CTE is a degenerative brain disease that has shown up predominately in athletes exposed to repetitive head trauma. The NFL has taken steps to drive headshots out of the game, but that is no help to former players.
“It shook my world and it just got kind of a little bit worse sometimes every day,” Adamle said.
Dr. Michael Smith, Adamle's neurologist, can't confirm that he has CTE, but states the signs are there. “Do we know that he has it definitely? No. We don’t know that until he dies unfortunately.” While there is progress in researching CTE, there is still not a known way to identify it while people are still alive.
Adamle has already been diagnosed with dementia and struggles with mood swings as well, both symptoms of CTE.
“When the bad days become more than the good days then you start worrying. Here’s what happens. You [Peggy] come over and you can do an interview with me and you’ll leave and I’ll say, ‘Oh God who is that?’” Adamle told Kusinski. “Watching a movie last night -- this happened last night -- five seconds into it, I’ll say ‘What are we watching?’”
Adamle says the hardest part is dealing with the draining depression. “The pain comes from embarrassment,” he said. “Sitting down, not being able to remember things. Like I said, everybody’s got that, don’t make a big thing out of it because everybody gets it. But sometimes I wake up in the morning, like I’ll throw up, and there’s times you get really depressed and you don’t want to see anybody and I try to fight those days.”
The good news is that he's committed to doing whatever he can to make the most of the days ahead and ensure he's there for his wife and daughters.
“The only way that I can extend my life and be around to see my daughters get married, live happily ever after with your wife, I want to be able to do that,” he said. “The only way you can do that is to stay active. I can’t jump out of an airplane anymore, I can’t rappel anymore, but there are things that I can do, I’m discovering.”
While he wouldn't change his NFL career, he would change how he approached it. “I would do it again,” he said. “I would tell you what, though, I would work harder in the offseason to find out about things that protect you when you play.”