Former Athlete Chris Nowinski Discusses Brain Trauma

Paul Steinbach Headshot

Former Harvard University football player Chris Nowinski estimates that he suffered at least five concussions by the time an opponent's boot to the chin knocked him out of professional wrestling in June 2003.

Nowinski has since overcome (with the aid of a daily stimulant) persistent issues with memory and focus to author the 2006 book Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis. A year later, he co-founded the Sports Legacy Institute in partnership with Boston University, where he is pursuing his doctorate in behavioral neuroscience. With Nowinski making the calls for donations, SLI has secured and studied the brains of 85 deceased athletes and military personnel for evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease brought on by repeated blows to the head. Paul Steinbach asked the 33-year-old Nowinski, who sat on the committee that led to a change this season in the way Ivy League schools conduct football practices, about his own current state of mind.

Q: What do you think about former players suing the NFL, alleging the league withheld intelligence about head injuries for decades?
A: I know there are a lot of former football players out there suffering from symptoms of CTE. When I wrote my book, I talked about the fact that I thought the NFL at that time was preventing the truth about the issue from getting to the players. The courts will work out what that all means, but I think it's a shame that there are so many guys out there suffering, and a lot of them don't have the ability to get medical coverage. They don't have the ability to hold down jobs anymore.

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