CLEVELAND -- During the offseason, Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas was the subject of much debate as it relates to the health of NFL players because he revealed that memory loss is something he is already dealing with at the age of 32.
Recently, a result of a study showed that CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) was present in 99 percent of deceased NFL players who donated their brains to the study. But Thomas is interested in seeing more results of CTE studies, ones that include more of a baseline sample size from the general population.
“It's obviously a very interesting topic because it's very deep and very intertwined with what we do in the NFL on a daily basis,” Thomas said on the eve of the start of Browns training camp. “There's a lot of parts to all these stories. I try to follow it as much as I can.
“I can't wait to see the study on the average population to see how much CTE is in the average population. To have a study where almost 100 percent of the people have what you're looking for is pretty amazing. I think it doesn't really tell you much yet. This is kind of the tip of the iceberg of what we're learning about brain injury and how it relates to football and things like that.”
In December, Thomas was selected to his 10th Pro Bowl, and has gone 10 for 10 in all-star game nods since entering the league via the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft out of the University of Wisconsin. Thomas became the first Browns player ever selected to participate in 10 Pro Bowls.
Thomas joined an elite group of athletes with the 10th straight selection, as defensive tackle Merlin Olsen (Los Angeles Rams), defensive back/running back Mel Renfro (Dallas Cowboys), running back Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions) and linebacker Lawrence Taylor (New York Giants) are the only other players who went 10 for 10 in Pro Bowl appearances over their first decade in the NFL.
All are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and spent their entire careers with one franchise.
“I think we have just only started to uncover the relationships between head trauma and memory loss and dementia and all those things that go with it and how that relates to the sports that we played growing up and sort of our lifestyle,” Thomas said.
“It's definitel something, that as NFL players, it's good to keep our thumbs on it a little bit, but I don't think it's anything that can scare you right now. But certainly, monitoring is what you want to do right now and follow along as they continue the research and continue the studies.”
Thomas has started each of the Browns’ 160 games over the last 10 seasons and has the NFL’s longest active streak for the most consecutive snaps played. Despite being a part of thousands of collisions at the line of scrimmage in his football career, Thomas is not yet concerned about issues with memory loss.
“Just because you forgot your keys on a day, that doesn't mean that's the canary in the coal mine, but at the same time, you have to remember that you did play in the NFL and it is a real possibility,” Thomas said. “I'm just monitoring it and I'm not worried about it right now.”