Seven-time Pro Bowler Warren Sapp was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2013.
Sapp recorded 96.5 sacks, which is almost unheard of for a Defensive Tackle.
But now that Sapp’s career is over, he’s begun to suffer memory loss, a common symptom for many retired football players. As a result, Sapp is doing something selfless for future generations of football players.
Sapp will donate his brain to concussion research when he dies.
Hall of Famer Warren Sapp announced Tuesday that when he dies he will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation because “I wanted this game to be better when I left than when I got into it.”
Sapp, 44, made the announcement in a video posted on The Players’ Tribune. He says an email he received from former running back Fred Willis was the impetus for his decision.
Sapp said the email “had quotes from NFL owners — I mean down the line you could see it: There’s no correlation between football, CTE, suicides, and all this foolish stuff. … I mean where are you getting this information from and then spewing it out as if it’s fact?”
Sapp, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection who retired in 2008 after 13 seasons (nine with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and four with the Oakland Raiders), said football has affected his memory.
“We’re playing in a macho league and we’re talking about Hall of Famers now who are immortalized forever, made busts and everything. Legends of the game,” he said. “There’s no way any of us wanna really admit that we can’t remember how to get home or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids to the school, or whatever it may be.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), i.e. chronic brain injury, has been linked to severe headaches, sensitivity to light, memory loss, confusion, violent outbursts, and suicidal ideation.
“It’s the most frightening feeling, but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep.”
The former defensive lineman, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, says he now has to use reminders on his phone to help him remember simple tasks.
“I used to call myself an elephant in the room. Never forget anything. Man, I wake up now and be like, ‘OK, what are we doing?’ Let me get the phone. I mean with the reminders in the phones, it really helped me get through my day with appointments and different things that I have to do because it’s just, I can’t remember anymore like I used to.
“And it’s from the banging we did as football players. We used to tackle them by the head, used to grab facemasks. We used to allow Deacon Jones to do the head slap. All of that was something that we had to take away from the game. We used to hit quarterbacks below the knees. Now it’s a strike zone. Let’s keep making the game better,” he said.
Sapp said those improvements should start at the youth level by eliminating tackling until players get to high school.
Currently CTE can only be tested for postmortem, and there is no cure.
Football is a wildly popular sport at every level, and the NFL is a billion-dollar industry. Football is here to stay, so it’s important to take care of its participants.
Sapp’s actions can help improve the health outcomes for future generations of players.