OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Nick Buoniconti is a 76-year-old hall of fame linebacker that suffers from neurological and cognitive related health issues. He announced Friday that he will donate his brain to further the study of concussions in the NFL after he dies.
"This is not easy, it's difficult. I'm not half the man I used to be,” said Buoniconti, whose brain will be studied Boston University. “I don’t do this for myself. I do it for the thousands of others who will call, who will follow me.”
The two-time Super Bowl champion, and one of the leaders of the Miami Dolphins undefeated 1972 championship team, went public with his health earlier this year when he told Sports Illustrated he sometimes feels “lost” or “like a child.”
“My last game, at the end I got on my hands and knees and kissed the ground and thanked God that I’d never gotten seriously hurt,” said Buoniconti, who estimates he absorbed 520,000 hits to the head, per Sports Illustrated.
In his speech announcing his pledge, he does look lost. It’s troubling to watch. And when he attempts to autograph a photo, you see the child-like nature he refers to. He can hardly hold the pen and his motor skills appear to be severely impacted.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. What happens is a protein called Tau forms clumps that slowly spread through the brain, killing brain cells along the way.
A July study that looked at 111 brains from former football players concluded that 110 had traces of CTE. A panel of neuropathologists made the diagnosis after examining brain tissue and using the criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Associated Press reported.