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As lawyers on both sides of the settlement of the concussion lawsuits against the NFL continue to haggle on terms, former players continue to be diagnosed -- and suffer.

Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure, among the first living former NFL players to have a brain scan that showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), doesn't think his family will get monetary help while he is alive.

The estate of a player diagnosed after death with CTE would qualify for a maximum award of $4million.

But the maximum award in the proposed settlement covers only CTE diagnosed after death.

"I will promise you this: I will not get a penny, and I was diagnosed (with CTE) at UCLA," says DeLamielleure, who played 13 seasons as a guard, mostly with the Buffalo Bills, from 1973 to 1985.

DeLamielleure, 63, who lives in Charlotte and operates a fitness equipment firm, has pledged to donate his brain to researchers at Boston University. He says he has had issues with insomnia and short attention span and wonders if that is related to his diagnosis of signs of CTE.

Before last year, CTE had been diagnosed only by examination of the brain after death. Some researchers say CTE, caused by repeated head trauma, is associated with brain impairment, depression, dementia and suicide.

But researchers at UCLA said last year that in using a brain-imaging method developed for Alzheimer's they had found abnormal protein buildups -- the signature for CTE after death -- in brains of some living former players. They said more research was needed to develop potential therapies. DeLamielleure says he has had treatments in a hyperbaric chamber (oxygen under high pressure) in hope of reversing his protein buildup.

CTE diagnosed in him after death could make his wife of 42 years, Gerri, eligible for an award. "Good for her. I mean that. My wife would get something," he says.

DeLamielleure relies on his wife's nursing job for health insurance. He says he collects $28,200 annually from his NFL pension, supplemented by the Legacy Fund, established as part of the NFL collective bargaining agreement in 2011 for players who retired before 1993.

Issues remain from August's tentative $765million settlement of concussion suits against the NFL, mainly on whether that amount is sufficient to cover medical expenses and quality of life consequences for the roughly 20,000 retired players.

Robert Boland, who teaches sports law and management at New York University, anticipates there being more money in an eventual settlement he expects this summer.

"I suspect it will get a little larger, but I also don't think it will grow exponentially larger," he says.

DeLamielleure says he was never diagnosed in the NFL with a concussion. But he took countless blows to the head. "I have 68% hearing loss in my left ear from head slaps (before they were outlawed)," he says.

His wife said DeLamielleure has found improvement in his sleep with magnetic resonance therapy. She also has seen improvement in his attention span.

"Several months ago, he couldn't sit down and really read a book or watch the news or watch a movie with me," she said. "Now, he can do that. I'm thinking it's improvement. Maybe (it's) wishful thinking."

 

April 28, 2014
 
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