In 2017, it’s really hard to dispute the connection between football and CTE, brain damage, and memory loss. While most football players won’t admit to experiencing these side effects during their careers, one prominent player is speaking out.

Joe Thomas was the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns and has played in Cleveland his entire career. The offensive tackle is a 10x pro bowler, 7x first team All-Pro, and 2x second team All-Pro. Thomas hasn’t missed a game during his 10 NFL seasons.

He’s also experiencing memory loss.

Thomas’s comments came while he was a guest on In Depth With Graham Besinger this week.

“I definitely expect memory loss,” Thomas said. “I’m already seeing memory loss, and maybe that’s just because of my old age, or maybe it’s football. It’s hard to tell, I mean there’s no double-blind studies when it comes to people’s lives.”

 The 32-year-old then went on to describe in detail specific instances where he suffers from short-term memory loss.
“You walk to the grocery store and you’re like, ‘Huh, I can’t remember what I needed to get.’ You know, just little stuff like that,” Thomas said.
What’s interesting too is the tackles’ comments show he isn’t 100% sure if football led to his memory issues. At the same time, many active players haven’t admitted if they experience the same issues at all.

The heartbreaking part is what Thomas has discovered because of his symptoms. A lot of those symptoms, like mood swings and depression, could lead to Alzheimer’s.

“Those are obviously scary and frightening things, but I think from my perspective, I can’t do anything about it. This was the profession that I have already chosen, and most of the damage has probably been done already. So what are the things that I can do to try to minimize my chances of having those negative effects down the line? And then do everything I possibly can. Then I can’t worry about it. I have to accept it.”

It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes from this down the road. For example, would Thomas become more active within the NFL Players Union about settlements or lawsuits involving the NFL and concussion related issues? Would Thomas possibly even stop playing sooner than he wants to because he knows it’s better for his health?

Most importantly, how will the NFL react to this? Statements like this from big time players can’t help the future of the sport when more and more parents are preventing their kids from playing because of possible brain damage.


About David Lauterbach

David is a writer for The Comeback. He enjoyed two Men's Basketball Final Four trips for Syracuse before graduating in 2016. If The Office or Game of Thrones is on TV, David will be watching.