BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The New Orleans Saints, along with the NFL, are under fire from the family of former player Paul Oliver. The family is suing for wrongful death, saying repeated head injuries lead to Oliver's suicide last year.
David Herman has a lot of good memories from his decade-long career playing for the New York Jets, and some that are a little less clear.
"Because those head slaps were legal back in those days. And so he was slappin' me in the head all for 60 minutes. And I woke up after the game, I said 'who won?'" said Herman.
At 73-years-old, those repeated hits from years ago are taking a toll on his mind, affecting his memory. Herman's doctors suspect that he suffers from a condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). In Baton Rouge, the Director for the Institute on Dementia Research and Prevention is very familiar with CTE's effects and the fear that it brings to athletes and their families.
"It's the inability to control your emotion, wild swings of anger in someone who normally didn't have that before and this inability to maintain attention on task which ultimately ends up disrupting every aspect of their life," said Dr. Keller.
Keller explains that CTE is the result of repeated brain trauma, associated with loss of consciousness. Basically, with enough hits to the head, the brain physically changes.
"They develop Tau pathology. Tao is a protein that is in all the neurons of the brain and it appears to accumulate abnormally in special areas of the brain, usually the frontal cortex of the brain," Dr. Keller stated.
The condition is being blamed for a surge of cases of dementia and suicide among professional football players, leading to multiple lawsuits against teams, such as the Saints, and the NFL.
"When someone has a concussion, their threshold for getting their next concussion is much lower so it puts them at risk for the very thing that could lead to CTE," said Keller.
Keller says CTE also shows up in military veterans. The Federal Government is stepping up its research, with hopes of better understanding the condition and how to manage it.
The Saints declined to comment about the Oliver lawsuit.
The NFL has proposed a settlement in a different concussion-related suit, which would pay out more than $760 million to thousands of athletes.