BEREA, Ohio -- Football is a violent sport that has lasting effects on the body, and a recent study showed that 99 percent of former NFL players who donated their brains to science suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, who admitted to suffering some memory loss issues during the offseason, said that with every headline involving CTE and the NFL, worries continue to grow about football's negative impact on long-term health.
“It’s interesting because you can make a statement like, ‘Oh, I’ve experienced some memory loss,' or 'I’ve had small things happen,’ and then, when that becomes the headline, your family and friends get really nervous, when in your mind, you’re like, ‘Well, that wasn’t a big deal,’” Thomas said.
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.
“As the public becomes more aware of what football can do to some people’s bodies and brains, there’s more awareness and concern from family and friends,” Thomas said. “I think for a long time, everybody knew how hard football was on your body, but they didn’t realize how hard it was on your brain. So now that science is catching up on your brain, people are starting to be concerned about that, too.”
Despite not missing a snap and being on the field for every play for a decade, Thomas counts himself lucky to have never been diagnosed with a concussion.
“I think it’s something you need to be aware of, but you don’t want to panic,” Thomas said. “I know plenty of old, former NFL players that are doing fantastic, and maybe, when they study their brain, they’re going to have CTE and it’s just a matter of sometimes the CTE in your brain affects what happens in your life and how your mood is and your attitude and you have those issues, and then, sometimes, it doesn’t.
“I think there’s so many more studies that need to be done and so much more research that needs to be done before we have sort of a clear idea of what this even means, because until they study the general population and find out what the likelihood of CTE in a soccer mom is vs. an NFL brain, we really have no baseline to rate this study off of.”
Last 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.
And long after his standout career is finished, Thomas will monitor the results of CTE studies.
“For me, personally, I do monitor those situations very closely, and the Browns have unbelievable medical resources,” Thomas said. “I’m always seeking the best help and advice possible and I’ll continue to do that even when my career is over.”