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Also, former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson has said he suffers from depression and memory loss after enduring multiple concussions as a player.
According to the Times, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that the league had no comment on Omalu's findings in the Strzelczyk case, while NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment. Strzelczyk, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive lineman with the Steelers between 1990 and 1998, was experiencing an apparent breakdown the morning of Sept. 30, 2004, when he led police on a 40-mile chase down the New York State Thruway in his pickup truck after being involved in a minor traffic mishap near Syracuse.
According to media accounts of the incident, he drove 15 miles on three tires and a rim after one of his tires was punctured by metal spikes thrown onto the road to stop him and was "flipping off" troopers, throwing a beer bottle at one. The incident ended near Herkimer, when Strzelczyk swerved into the westbound lanes of the Thruway to avoid a truck that had pulled across the highway to stop him and collided head-on into a tanker truck.Earlier this year, Dr. Julian Bailes, the chairman of the department of neurosurgery at West Virginia University and the Steelers' team neurosurgeon during Strzelczyk's career, suggested to Omalu that Strzelczyk's brain tissue might have been preserved from his autopsy, the Times reported. Bailes, is also the medical director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina and has co-authored several papers citing links between concussions and later emotional and cognitive problems. Mary Strzelczyk, the late player's mother, granted Omalu permission to study the brain tissue for signs of CTE, saying she wanted to better understand what led her son to his death. On Wednesday, as she looked at images of her son's brain damage on a computer screen, she told the Times they would be "a piece of the puzzle." "I'm interested for me and for other mothers," she told the Times. "If some good can come of this, that's it. Maybe some young football player out there will see this and be saved the trouble." Omalu told the newspaper he is confident the damage was caused by concussions Strzelczyk might not have reported, because players did not know the symptoms of a concussion or would not report them for fear of appearing weak. "Could there be another cause? Not to my knowledge," Bailes told the Times. He also said that bipolar disorder, which Strzelczyk appeared to be exhibiting in the months before his death, would not have been caused by CTE but could have been made worse by it. Omalu and Bailes told the newspaper the diagnosis stands out because the condition manifested itself when Strzelczyk was in his mid-30s. Long and Waters were in their 40s when they committed suicide, while Webster was 50 and had suffered from numerous physical ailments and chronic pain in addition to dementia.