Add a Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame player to the long list of former players experiencing worsening problems as they age due to concussions. Thurman Thomas has publicly opened up about neurological symptoms he's experiencing that are worsening.
Following a MRI a few years ago, doctors told Thomas that the frontal lobe of his brain was "similar to someone who has fallen off the top of a house, on to the front of his head, or going through a windshield of a car several times."
Thomas has dealt with symptoms that include forgetfulness and mood swings, something he hopes his family continues to understand, but sought medical attention after he found himself lost driving in familiar territory.
"I didn't know where I was, and I didn't know what I was doing," Thomas told a concussion summit in Canada last week. "I had to make the most difficult call I've ever made. I had to pull over on the highway, call my wife, and explain to her the events that just happened. She said, 'You need to come back home.' I knew that there was a problem."
These symptoms are commonly associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE, which has been linked to repeated blows to the head like the ones an NFL running back would take over the course of a 13-year professional career. Large, unexplained mood swings further isolate some former players as they continue on a downward spiral, and further adds to the physical and mental toll that they experience.
"Still to this day, I can't control my mood swings," said Thomas. "On so many days, I have to apologize to my family for them. I thank God that I have a family that understands the things that I've been through over my 13-year [professional] career, and even after my 14 or 15 years that I've been retired. They all understand that with my mood swings, sometimes I just can't help it."
Thomas doesn't want to hurt the game, though, which is one of the reasons it took him so long to speak publicly. He doesn't have a problem with his son playing, for instance, because he says the technology and research have improved so much since Thomas was drafted in 1988 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
"One thing that I realized is that discussing the effects of concussions and the reality of the situation doesn't make me less of a man, less tough, less loyal to the National Football League, a less love for the game," he said. "All it means is that I'm not an ignorant fool, and that I don't ignore factual evidence that this is happening to not only football players, but (other athletes)."
Thomas also responded on Monday to the latest rounds of media requests after his comments were made public, reiterating that his intent in speaking at the summit was to draw awareness to the need for further improvements in tracking and monitoring concussions.