Former NFL player Mike Adamle, believed to be one of only a few living people ever diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), detailed his 20-year battle with the condition on Megyn Kelly TODAY Thursday morning.
As a result of CTE, the one-time Chicago Bears running back who went on to become a local sports anchor and host of the game show ‘American Gladiators’ suffered through epilepsy – once having a seizure on the air in 1999 – and depression before losing his career and his marriage.
‘I felt like I was losing him,’ said wife Kim, who remarried Adamle five years after their divorce. ‘He was physically aggressive with me, which was not like Mike at all.’
Former NFL player Mike Adamle, believed to be one of only a few living people ever diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), detailed his 20-year battle with the condition on Megyn Kelly TODAY
It wasn’t until he was diagnosed with CTE last year that they were able to start dealing with his problems directly.
Adamle was in to get routine scans for his epilepsy.
‘Then the doctor came out and he said, oh, by the way, our scan, this new scan that they had apparently said we’ve seen something else in there that you have all the signs that are concurrent with CTE,’ he said.
As far as Adamle knew, the disease could only be diagnosed in the deceased, such as the Boston University study that revealed 110 out of 111 donated brains from former NFL players had some degree of the CTE.
‘I told the doctor, what do you mean?’ said Adamle, a father of four, to Kelly of his diagnosis. ‘They’re supposed to be dead before you can diagnose that. And they said, well, at this point in time we really don’t know.’
Dr. Bennet Omalu, who is credited as one of the pioneers of CTE research, claimed to have diagnosed former NFL player Fred Mitchell with the disease in 2012, but did not reveal that diagnosis until last year. Mitchell passed away in 2015.
Running back Mike Adamle (No. 20) of the Chicago Bears runs upfield against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on October 3, 1976. He was diagnosed with CTE last year
Adamle was an on-air host for ‘American Gladiators’ and it’s British cousin ‘Gladiators.’ He also played himself in an episode of ‘Ellen’ with actor/comedian Ellen Degeneres (right)
After retiring form football, Adamle went on to a career as a local sports anchor until he suffered a seizure during a broadcast in 1999. A year ago he was diagnosed with CTE
Regardless of who the medical field regards as the first living person to be diagnosed with the disease, Adamle told doctors that he was determined to be the first ‘to live with it.’
Because so much is unknown about CTE, treating the condition in the living presents an enormous challenge.
‘We can’t stop that brain damage, but we can do other things to promote other brain growth, neurogenesis,’ said TODAY guest Dr. Robert Cantu. ‘The exercise, the diet, anti-inflammatory, low glycemic, socializing, the emotional part. All of these things are part of our daily life that we do all the time.’
Now, not only is Adamle focused on diet and exercise, but he’s doing the kinds of things that require coordination, counting, and both sides of his brain.
He and his wife have taken up ballroom dancing and Adamle says boxing lessons have helped with his coordination.
‘It’s not that you get hit in the head or anything, but you have all these punch routines,’ he explained.
Adamle and wife Kim divorced because of the effects of his CTE, but it wasn’t until after they were remarried that he was officially diagnosed with the disease
Today Adamle and his wife Kim take ballroom dancing classes to help with his coordination
Kim Adamle on living with someone with CTE: ‘Our life just was chaotic. And we didn’t know what was going on or why. But it led to us breaking up’
Adamle and his wife have launched an initiative with Cantu’s Concussion Legacy Foundation to help those who may be living with the disease by following his example.
Adamle and fellow guests – former New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Marshall and former New York Jets running back Ed Marinaro – also talked about their decision to play football and whether or not they would change it if they could go back.
HOW CTE LEADS TO AGGRESSION, EXPLOSIVENESS, SUICIDE AND MEMORY LOSS
WHAT IS CTE?
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by repeated hits to the head.
Over time, these hard impacts result in confusion, depression, dementia, explosiveness, aggression, and suicidal thoughts.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT BEHAVIOR?
Researchers are still unclear on how CTE affects behavior, but a growing swell of studies is offering some answers.
- CTE sufferers have clumps of tau protein built up in the frontal lobe, which controls emotional expression and judgment (similar to dementia)
- This interrupts normal functioning and blood flow in the brain, disrupting and killing nerve cells
- By stage 3 – i.e. Hernandez’s stage – the tau deposits expand from the frontal lobe (at the top) to the temporal lobe (on the sides). This affects the amygdala and the hippocampus, which controls emotion and memory
While Adamle said he would never give up the personal relationships he’s gained in football ‘in a million years,’ he did acknowledge that the abuse he’s endured has been excessive.
‘There’s something intrinsically wrong with a sport, at least it is right now, where, you know, you lose your marbles somewhere down the line,’ he said.
‘There’s no happy ending,’ he said. ‘But I want to make sure that we come close.’
Kim described to Kelly how she and divorced before ultimately reuniting in 2014.
‘Our life just was chaotic,’ she said. ‘And we didn’t know what was going on or why. But it led to us breaking up. We took the divorce slowly and we were separated and then divorced for a total of five years. And then there came a point where Mike and I remained friends, though, during this whole time. We had two children still at home and so we were always together for those things, holidays, whenever one of us needed anything, we were there for one another.
‘And so the summer of 2014 we would go and have coffee together where our one daughter was a barista,’ she continued. ‘And Mike started hinting maybe I should just move in with you guys. “Maybe I should just move back in. I hate my place, it’s so depressing.” And so he was dropping these hints more and more. And I knew why. It’s because he was having difficulty living on his own. And so I talked to our girls and I said what do you think about daddy moving back in?’
The daughters agreed, but it quickly became apparent how much he needed all of them in his life.
Not only was his memory suffering, but Adamle’s executive functioning was deteriorating as well.
‘Executive functioning is necessary in everything we do,’ Kim said. ‘It’s a part of everything we do. It’s procedural knowledge, it’s when to do something, how to do something, and in what order.
‘That was one of the biggest difficulties,’ she continued. ‘So every single living task that you do, where your keys are, how to use them, rinsing the dishes, making a smoothie, every little thing involves that.’
Former New York Giants defensive end Leonard Marshall believes he is suffering the affects of CTE, and hopes to prevent young athletes from following in his footsteps.
‘The research and everything that I’ve gone through the last seven, eight years and the readings and all the other periodicals that I’ve read over time about this is that kids between the ages of 8 and 12 run a severe risk of head injury playing youth tackle football,’ he said.
‘I think it’s a tough, competitive sport to begin with, but I think when you’re taking young people and the brain is not fully developed between that age group, I think that you run a severe risk.’
Dr. Robert Cantu also stressed that football is not the only cause of CTE. Soldiers as well as hockey, soccer, and even water polo players are among the many at risk.
‘Megyn, we’re focused on football, but I think all collision sports at the youth level should be played in a safe manner,’ Cantu said. ‘And for football, that’s flag under the age of 14, for soccer, it’s no heading, and for ice hockey it’s no checking. And so we want kids to be playing sports, we just want the youth end of it to be playing in a safer way.’
Former New York Giants defensive end Leonard Marshall believes he is suffering from CTE, although he has not been diagnosed, and suggested keeping children out of youth football
Leonard Marshall (left) thinks he may have CTE while Ed Marinaro (right) hopes he’s OK
Former Vikings and Jets running back Ed Marinaro is one of several outspoken advocates for former NFL players dealing with the long-term affects of decades of amateur and pro football
NFL PLAYERS DIE YOUNGER THAN AMATEUR PLAYERS, STUDY FINDS DAYS BEFORE SUPER BOWL
By Mia de Graaf, Health Editor for Dailymail.com
NFL players have a higher risk of death compared to amateur players, a new study has concluded.
The mortality rate difference was not statistically significant, critics warn, meaning happenstance may have played a role.
However, researchers warn the results point to a wider problem, and brain injury experts insist the figures will be far more stark once we establish an accepted way of documenting football-related diseases.
The study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, comes just days before the Super Bowl – and the same day three NFL players appeared on the TODAY show to describe their fears about sport-related disease.
The study compared 2,933 athletes who played in the National Football League for an average of five years to 879 ‘replacement players’ who filled in for three games during a mid-1980s strike.
Critics said the American Medical Association study had several flaws.
Indeed, previous research has even found NFL players to live longer than the general population, since they are in top physical shape for first three or four decades of their life.
Researchers warn the results point to a wider problem, and brain injury experts insist the figures will be far more stark once we establish an accepted way of documenting football-related diseases
A wider swell of research, however, ties football to poor health outcomes.
A separate study released last year by Boston University found 99 percent of deceased former NFL players whose brains were analyzed post-mortem showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease linked to repeated hits to the head that can lead to aggression and dementia.
The NFL, which has been accused of tolerating head injuries as part of the sport, has changed rules ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday in Minneapolis, requiring players who show signs of a seizure to be pulled from the game.
Ed Marinaro of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins during Super Bowl VIII at Rice Stadium January 13, 1974. He is now an outspoken advocate for players with CTE
At future games, athletes who stumble to the ground when trying to stand will be examined in their team locker room, the league said last month.
More neurotrauma consultants not affiliated with specific teams will be on the field and at the NFL’s command center to monitor players.
The NFL was not immediately available to comment on the latest study.
Chris Nowinski, chief executive officer of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, said that the AMA study was hampered because the career NFL players involved were too young to have died from the effects of CTE.
‘But even if they were older the presence of the disease and what gets written on death certificate are two separate things,’ Nowinski said. ‘That’s a well-established problem in looking at death records and trying to establish dementia.’
Nowinski also said that even the replacement players likely had spent eight to 12 years playing competitive football – including high school, college and some time in professional leagues – meaning that they could have sustained nearly as much head trauma as the NFL veterans.
So far, CTE can be diagnosed only by taking brain tissue from a dead subject. A January study in the scientific journal Brain found more evidence that all hits to the head, not just those that cause concussions, can contribute to CTE.
The AMA study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the leading cause of death among the NFL career players was cardiometric disease, followed by transportation injuries and unintentional injuries.
Among the replacement players the leading cause of death was cardiometric disease followed by self-harm and interpersonal violence and then neoplasms.