• Sumo

By Ken Reed

T.J. Abraham worked hard at football while an offensive lineman at Duquense University. He worked so hard that he got his “bell rung” upwards of 70 times.

After his football career ended, he worked hard at being an obstetrics & gynecology doctor, sometimes putting in 100-hour work weeks.

Today, the now 42-year-old is retired because his brain doesn’t work properly. His official diagnosis is neurodegenerative dementia but his doctors in Boston, Philadelphia and California believe it is very likely he is suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease linked to repetitive trauma to the head. (The average college football player experiences 800-1,000 blows to the head during a single season, according to Boston University’s CTE center.) CTE can only be officially confirmed via autopsy.

There’s no cure for Abraham. His condition (temper tantrums, memory loss, judgment lapses, etc.) is only going to worsen. Along with dealing with the pain of knowing he will gradually continue to deteriorate physically and mentally, Abraham is having to deal with the emotional pain of knowing he won’t be there for his kids as they grow up.

“My daughter asks me: ‘Daddy, is your brain getting better?’” says Abraham. “And my heart breaks because I know the answer is no.”

Abraham spends some of his time these days fighting to get youth football banned, despite the enjoyment the sport brought him as a player and coach.

“I do not want to see anyone lose what I’ve lost or experience this disease,” wrote Abraham in his testimony for a New York State Assembly hearing on youth football. “I strongly urge you to ban tackle football at the age of 12 and younger in the state of New York.”

Abraham is a young man who can’t remember his wedding or the birth of his daughter. He can no longer help people through his chosen profession. But he’s hoping his efforts to ban youth football will help others avoid his fate.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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