TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘George Visger’

So, Whaddya Think? . . . . . Football Puts Children’s Brains at Risk

So, Whaddya Think?

Football Puts Children’s Brains at Risk

by

David Figurski and Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(Note: This is our third opinion essay on brain trauma and American football. The first and second were published on this blog on December 17th and December 26th, respectively.)

 

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4Lack of awareness of new knowledge has allowed society to continue what some of us now know to be dangerous practices with respect to children. To understand what we mean, watch these short videos of children practicing or playing American football (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

The danger to the brains of children in the videos is readily apparent to us (video, story). Parents often believe a brain injury is rare. But the evidence indicates otherwise. The hundreds of sub-concussive hits that a player of American football receives each season can result in the degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE can lead to loss of memory, loss of cognitive ability, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), aggressive behavior, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It has been seen in the brains of high school football players. In fact, individuals who started playing organized American football at a young age seem to have a higher rate of CTE.

Bennet Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu – neuropathologist – discovered CTE

Recently, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE in an American football player by studying the brain of Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster, was the author of a recent New York Times Op-Ed entitled Don’t Let Kids Play Football. In an interview for zap2it.com, Dr. Omalu said, “As a modern society it’s our duty to protect our most vulnerable, most precious gifts of life: our children. This is where I stand.”

(We highly recommend your seeing the newly released movie Concussion, which will bring about more awareness of the danger to the brain from playing American football. The movie tells the true story of how the National Football League – NFL – tried to dismiss Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery of the connection of brain disease and the playing of American football. Former players are suing the NFL, claiming that the NFL knew of the dangers, but did not inform the players.)kid-football-players-clip-art

In the documentary Head Games (online and free), we are reminded that children are not miniature adults. A child’s head is larger than an adult’s in proportion to his or her body. The neck muscles are not proportionately stronger, so a child’s head is more vulnerable than is an adult’s head. Brain development continues until at least age 14. (Some neurologists think brain development may continue longer.) In addition, the neurons in a developing brain are not yet fully myelinated. Recent research has shown that a concussion in a child impairs brain function for two years. The risk to the brain is the major reason why US Soccer banned heading for children 10 and under.

George Visger

Former San Francisco 49er – George Visger – TBI Survivor

On August 16th, Donna conducted a radio interview with George Visger, a former defensive lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers on her radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” on the Brain Injury Radio Network. Visger stated that youth football might ultimately end because of the eventual high cost of liability insurance (minutes 30:25-33:45; we think you will also find the intervals 5:40-15:55 and 39:40-42:25 interesting because of their contents – children and football). Dr. Omalu, the discoverer of CTE in an American football player, says in Frontline’s documentary The League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis that he was told if 10% of mothers think playing football is too dangerous, it will mean the end of football.

The consequences of a brain injury can be especially devastating, even fatal, to a young player (video 1, video 2, story of the suicide of a teenage football player). The risk of brain injury from high-impact sports, especially American football, is significant even for adults, but an adult can make his or her own decision to play. In contrast, children rely on parents and Brain in Helmetcoaches. No parent would deliberately put a child’s life-trajectory at risk, but what if the parent lacks awareness? The good news is that apparently society’s awareness is growing quickly. Peter Landesman, the director of Concussion, said that Pop Warner football enrollment is down by more than 30%. (Pop Warner football is for children aged 5 to 16.) The movie Concussion will further increase society’s awareness of the danger of concussions and sub-concussive hits, show what CTE is, tell Dr. Bennet Omalu’s story of his discovery of the relationship of CTE and American football, and show Dr. Omalu’s struggle with the NFL.

Healthy and Damaged Brain

Left – Healthy Brain — Right – Brain with CTE

It is also the brain-injury community’s responsibility to speak out to show society how life-altering a brain injury is.

 

 

 

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . . . . “Concussion” Movie Based on True Story – (trailer)

“Concussion” Movie Based on True Story – (trailer)

starring Will Smith

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

newsboy-thAmerica loves football, but the National Football League (NFL) fears a new movie that will be released on December 25, 2015. Team owners in the NFL are already preparing their responses to the movie, “Concussion.”will-smith-concussion-01-600x350

There are a lot people who believe that football cannot survive, including George Visger, a former NFL defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers. His comments can be heard in my interview of him two weeks ago during my radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” on the Brain Injury Radio Network. A rookie linebacker in the NFL resigned after one year of play over fear of brain injury. Already there is a 2.2% decline in participation in high school football, including an even higher rate of decline in Texas, which has led the nation in football players for two decades. One elementary school banned tackling and instituted flag football, to no objections. As more and more parents become aware of the risk of contact sports to the human brain (some will because of this movie), the rate of decline in youth football will increase, and the pool of talented NFL-bound athletes will get smaller. (Full story and trailer)

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Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

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On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with Former NFL San Fran 49er, George Visger and Caregiver, Kendra Hammond Brittain

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road”

with

Former NFL San Fran 49er, George Visger

and 

Caregiver, Kendra Hammond Brittain

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Visger-275x300Former NFL San Fran 49er, George Visger talked about the dangers of football and brain injury. He also discussed hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and Cranial-Sacral therapy, which he believes have helped him.

Kendra Brittain 2 Survivor 042315Kendra Hammond Brittain joined for the last half of the show to tell of her son’s football injury, which caused his TBI.

If you missed this show on “Another Fork in the Road” on August 16th, 2015, don’t fret. You can listen to the archived show here. Click the link below.

See you “On the Air!”

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with Former NFL San Fran 49er, George Visger and Caregiver, Kendra Hammond Brittain

Click here for a list of all “Another Fork in the Road” shows on the Brain Injury Radio Network.

SPEAK OUT! On the Air with . . . Brain Injury Radio Show Menu “Another Fork in the Road”

On the Air

“Another Fork in the Road” Menu of Radio Shows

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

images-1

Finding the show you are looking for is easy. Just scroll through the list of shows below. There are interviews with brain injury survivors and caregivers. There are shows with therapists and authors. Discussions of pertinent topics relating to brain injury are also included. I hope you find something that interests you.

If there is a topic that you would like me to address on my show, please send me an email at neelyf@aol.com. In the subject area, please write “On the Air” Topic.

                                                 

See you “On the Air”

 

April 2, 2017          

Panel: Frank Mackall (survivor); Jeannette Davidson-Mayer and Bob Millsap (caregivers)
Topic: Roles of Caregivers After Brain Injury

March 19, 2017         (repeat of August 16, 2015 show)

Guest: George Visger (survivor and ex-NFL player)
Guest: Kendra Brittain (caregiver for her son who acquired a TBI at age 13 from football)
Topic:  Football and Brain Injury

March 5, 2017   

Panel: Cam Compton and Lisa Dryer (survivors)
Topic: Finding Purpose After Brain Injury

February 19, 2017  

Guest: Amy Zellmer (survivor/author)
Topic: Living with a Brain Injury

February 5, 2017        

Panel: Cam Compton and Frank Mackall (survivors)
Topic: Employment-related Challenges After Brain Injury

January 15, 2017    

Guest: Daniel (survivor and cross-country bicyclist) & Amber (wife and caregiver) Mollino
Topic: Living with Brain Injury and Advocacy for the Brain Injured

January 1, 2017

Guest: Craig Sicillia (survivor/owner and head of the Brain Injury Radio Network)
Topic: Expectations for the New Year

December 18, 2016

Guest: Freya Perry (Survivor/Artist)
Topic: Art after Brain Injury

December 4, 2016

Another Fork in the Road – It’s All About David – That’s Why I’m Here

November 20, 2016
Guest: Jamie Crane-Mauzy (champion freeskier and survivor)
Topic: Life after TBI


November 6, 2016

Panel: Lisa Dryer (survivor) and Jeannette Davidson-Mayer (caregiver)
Topic: Cognitive Disabilities After Brain Injury

October 16, 2016

Guests: Shelly Millsap (survivor, writer) and Bob Millsap (caregiver)
Topic: Meet the Millsaps

October 2, 2016

Panel: GeorgeAnna Bell (survivor), Lisa Dryer (survivor), and Jeannette Davidson-Mayer (caregiver)
Topic: Do Support-Groups Help After Brain Injury?

September 18, 2016   

Guests: David Grant (survivor, author, publisher) and Sarah Grant (caregiver, publisher) – Topic: TBI Hope and Inspiration

September 4, 2016

Panel: GeorgeAnna Bell (survivor), Lisa Dryer (survivor), and Daniel Mollino (survivor) Topic: Impulse vs. Logic After Brain Injury

August 21, 2016        

Guests: Raine Turner (caregiver) and her son, Ryan Pohle (survivor) – Topic: Mother and Son Talk About Brain Injury

August 7, 2016       

Panel: GeorgeAnna Bell (survivor), Juliet Madsen (survivor), and Mike Dalton (service-dog trainer) – Topic: Benefit of Service Animals After Brain Injury

July 27, 2016

Substitute host, Cam Compton Interviews Avi – Another Stroke Survivor

July 3, 2016  

Panel: Cam Compton, Juliet Madsen, and Chris Morris (survivors)
Topic: Recovery and Rehabilitation After Brain Injury

June 19, 2016      

Guests: Joel (caregiver) and Bart (survivor) Goldstein – Topic: Father and Son Tackle Brain Injury

June 5, 2016  

Panel: GeorgeAnna Bell (survivor) and Lisabeth Mackall (caregiver) – Topic: Cognitive and Memory Deficits

May 15, 2016 

Substitute hosts: Cam Compton and Lisa Dryer – Topic: MS Meets Stroke

May 1, 2016   

Panel: GeorgeAnna Bell (survivor) and Lisa Dryer (survivor) -Topic: Behavioral and Emotional Changes and Brain Injury

April 17, 2016  

Guest: Julie Kintz on Clubhouses for the Brain-Injured with Fly-By with Zachary Stilwell

April 3, 2016 

Panel: Lisa Dryer (survivor) and Julie Kintz (survivor) – Topic: Living and coping with PTSD

March 20, 2016    

Guest: Jim Proebstle, author of “Unintended Impact: One Athlete’s Journey from Concussions in Amateur Football to CTE Dementia” discusses his brother and CTE

March 6, 2016   

Panel: Lisabeth Mackall (caregiver), Sandra Williams (survivor and caregiver), and David Figurski (survivor) – Topic: Grief After Brain Injury

February 21, 2016

Guest: Jessica E. Taylor – Brain Injury Survivor & Author of “From Tragedy to Triumph: Journey Back from the Edge”

February 7, 2016 

Panel: Cam Compton and Lisa Dryer – Topic: Reasonable, Responsible, and Realistic Resolutions

January 17, 2016 

Guest: Ann Boriskie, survivor and award-winning director of the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association

January 3, 2016

Show canceled due to illness – to be rescheduled

December 20, 2015    

Party Night with caregiver, Lisabeth Mackall and survivor, Daniel Mollino

December 6, 2015     

Panel: Lisa Dryer and Lisabeth Mackall – Topic: Holidays – Less Stress – More Fun

November 15, 2015  

Guest: Sandra Williams, survivor and caregiver for her sons, special education teacher and advocate for brain-injured students

November 1, 2015

Panel: Jeannette Davidson-Mayer and Lisa Dryer – Topic: Daily Living, Organization, and Brain Injury

October 18, 2015  

Guest: Kyle Turley, retired NFL player and musician talks about his life with brain disease
(postponed due to technical difficulties)
(Instead, I explained each category of my blog, survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com.)

October 4, 2015 

Panel: Melissa Cronin and Juliet Madsen – Topic: Depression

September 20, 2015 

Guest: Janiece Naber Martindale, a two-time caregiver – first for her husband, James, who eventually succumbed to MSA (multiple system atrophy), and then for an elderly friend

September 6, 2015

Panel: Lisabeth Mackall and Juliet Madsen – Topic: Where Have All My Friends Gone?

August 16, 2015

Guests:

George Visger, advocate for former and current football players, a San Francisco 49er who had to quit after two years in the NFL because of a brain injury (1st 40 minutes of show)

Kendra Brittain, mother of a son who had to quit sports because, at age 13, he sustained a brain injury from football (2nd 40 minutes of show)

August 2, 2015

Panel: Melissa Cronin and Juliet Madsen – Topic: Learning Accommodations After Brain Injury

July 19, 2015

Guest: Tatiana Puckett, young mother of three boys and caregiver for her husband, Joshua

July 5, 2015

Panel: Catherine Brubaker, Julie Kintz, and Juliet Madsen – Topic: All Disabilities Are Not Visible

June 21, 2015

Guest: Daniel Mollino, survivor and cross-country bicyclist

June 7, 2015

Guest: Lisa Dryer, survivor of brain injury, multiple sclerosis, lupus, epilepsy, and Sjögren’s syndrome

May 17, 2015

Guest: Juliet Madsen, survivor, troop, quilter, author

May 3, 2015

Guest: Lisabeth Mackall, caregiver, therapist, author

April 19, 2015

Guest: Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, caregiver and military spouse

April 11, 2015

Interview of Donna O’Donnell Figurski by Shannon Marie of the Brain Injury Radio Network

March 15, 2015

Guests: Joshua Puckett, survivor, and his wife, Tatiana

March 1, 2015

Guest: Deb Angus, survivor and author

February 15, 2015

Guests: Jamie and Crystal Fairles, survivors

February 1, 2015

Guests: Bob Calvert (radio host for US troops), Jeannette Davidson-Mayer (spouse of a brain-injured troop), and Juliet Madsen (brain-injured troop)

January 18, 2015 

Guest: Rosemary Rawlins, caregiver for her husband and author

January 4, 2015

Guest: Allan Bateman – Preventive and Rehabilitative Therapist

December 21, 2014

Guests: Catherine (Cat) Brubaker, TBI survivor, and Dan Zimmerman, stroke survivor Reflections on Triking Across America

December 7, 2014

Guest: Christian Jungersen, author of You Disappear

November 30, 2014

Co-host: Julie Kintz – Holiday Stressors

November 16, 2014

Guest: Melissa Cronin, survivor – author of Invisible Bruise in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injuries

November 2, 2014

Guest: Dr. David Figurski, survivor – Segment 4 of Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story

October 5, 2014

Guest: Catherine (Cat) Brubaker, survivor – Triking Across America – diagonally

September 21, 2014

Segment 3 and Epilogue of Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story

September 7, 2014

Segment 2 of Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story

August 31, 2014

Co-host: Julie Kintz – Life Changes After TBI

August 4, 2014

Segment 1 of Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story

July 9, 2014

Interview of Donna O’Donnell Figurski by Kim Jefferson Justus of the Brain Injury Radio Network

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger . . . . . . George Visger (former NFL SF 49er)

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger George Visger (former NFL SF 49er)

Short, Choppy Steps

 

Boy Blogger thAnyone who has ever spent time on the gridiron will know what those words mean. But their meaning holds truth far beyond the playing field and can be applied to everything we do in life.

In football, the object of the game is to win. But to win, you must score. To score, you need to punch the ball across the goal line.

But what if the goal line is 99 yards away?

Short, choppy steps will get you there – not long strides and an occasional 50-yard run.

In football, everything starts with a good stance. You need balance. Just like in life. You need to get yourself into position to succeed before you can succeed. A bad stance, and you’re beat before the ball’s snapped. When playing defense, if you have too much weight on your right foot, you’ll never be able step with that foot, and the offensive linemen will easily be able to cut you off if the play is going that way. If you have too much weight forward, like you have during a passing situation, you can never react quickly enough if they call a run to the inside.

A good stance is a balanced stance. Try it.

No, I mean try it. Everyone who can, stand up.

Stand up tall – feet, shoulder-width apart, and toes, even. Move your dominant foot back about 10-12 inches so your right toes (if right-handed) are even with the instep of your left foot. Now push your chest out and your butt back. Slowly squat down until your elbows touch your knees. Once your elbows make contact, lean forward a bit and place your hand on the ground with your thumb directly under your nose.

That’s a balanced stance. You can easily move in any direction from that position.

#74 NFL San Francisco 49er, George Visger @ 1981

#74 NFL San Francisco 49er, George Visger @ 1981

On offense, if you don’t score, you can’t win. To score, you have to move the ball. If the offensive lineman fires out with a long stride – like you would do when sprinting, it’s very easy for the defensive player to knock him on his butt. Holding your head up and looking 90 yards down the field at the goal line is a great way to get your cranium removed. Considering the cranium is a fairly important organ, it’s best you hang on to it. You need to keep your butt down, your face up, and your neck bowed and to take short, choppy steps.

Try it.

A long stride with your head up is a narrow stride. Any pressure from the side will knock you on your butt. To maintain the most strength, you want short, choppy steps. Fire out, and keep your butt down and your face up. Stick your face into the numbers, and, with your butt under you, drive with short (12-16 inch) strides. That’s where you get your power. Not a long, narrow, unbalanced stride with your neck craned up and your head looking downfield. Focus on the short, choppy steps.

If a football team got only 4 yards every play on offense – no more, no less, they would never lose.

Think about it.

Only 4 yards a play, and you would NEVER LOSE!

George Visger #74  4th row from bottom, 2nd from right  @ 1981

George Visger #74
4th row from bottom, 2nd from right
@ 1981

That’s a first down every 3 plays. You would score every time you had the ball. NO ONE could stop you.

Every one has a cross to bear. Some crosses are much heavier than others. I have met people on my journey, who have silently carried crosses I could never even lift. Yet they pack them – everyone.

And never complain.

If we looked downfield every day – gazing at where we want to be in life and thinking about what we have to deal with to get there, we’d never score. You need to keep that goal line in the back of your mind every day of your life – every play, but to get there, you need to focus on each step. One day at a time. One step at a time.

A single short, choppy step each day wins games.

Set a short-term goal each day, and focus on that.

In 1986, at the age of 28, I returned to school to complete my Biology degree, after an Orange Bowl, a Super Bowl, three emergency VP (ventriculoperitoneal) shunt brain surgeries, and several gran mal seizures. I needed four semesters of Chemistry (Chem 1A, Chem 1B, Organic Chem, and Bio Chem), two semesters of Physics, two semesters of Pre-Calculus, and other fun classes to complete my degree in Biological Conservation and to attain my second dream in life – to be a wildlife biologist. (My first dream was to be the greatest NFL player of all time.) At the time, I was working construction during the day, earning a Class B General Contractors license in the evenings, and bouncing at bars at night to survive. (No, all NFL players are not millionaires. I was a 6th-round pick in 1980 and signed for $35,000.)

After I returned to school in 1986, I survived five additional emergency brain surgeries during a 9-month period in ‘86-’87, while taking Organic Chem, Physics, and other classes. I was in Organic Chem three times when my shunt blew out. I had emergency brain surgery, and I dropped out of school. After the first, I came back and took the class again. Another shunt blow out and another brain surgery, and I dropped out of school again. Happened a third time. This time, I was determined not to drop out. Brain surgery on Saturday, and I left the hospital on Sunday, 23 hours later. I was sitting in Organic on Monday when I had a >50-minute gran mal seizure. I was hospitalized for a week. It seemed I had developed an infection in my shunt on that one. They sent me home with a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) in my arm, with a pump taped to my bicep, and with a tube that ran directly into my heart to deliver antibiotics. I packed that around for 10 days and had to drop out of school again.

I came back the next semester, but by then I had developed dyslexia and major short-term memory issues from my surgeries and gran mal seizure meds. (I’ve been on Dilantin, Depacote, Phenobarbital, Kepra, Zonegran, and now Lamictil.) After discovering through my own investigations that each one causes short-term memory problems, I had my doctors change the meds because I didn’t like the side effects. I had to write on my notebook where I parked my truck each day, or I would spend an hour or two walking up and down each row of cars in each parking lot on each side of Sacramento State University looking for my truck.

I came back the next semester so frustrated I met with my counselor, Mr. Sterling Ebel, a man who had as much influence on my life as anyone other than my father. Mr. Ebel was a man who quietly gave me information on how best to achieve my goals and connected with me as a person and a man. He was a man who wore the same tiny tie clasp every day I knew him. It had two words:

“TRY GOD.”

“Sterling, I can’t keep doing this crap. I can’t even remember where I parked my truck, much less Organic Chemistry. I just want a degree. I don’t care what it’s in. Just find me a degree. I need to get on with my life,” I ranted one day, as I barged into his office without an appointment, ready to quit.

“You’re 12 units from a Social Science degree,” he calmly replied after studying my transcript and telling his receptionist to hold his next appointment.

“OK, I’m a Social Science major,” I said.

That semester I took 6 units towards my Social Science degree, and passed both classes. The next semester, just 6 units shy of a BA in Social Science, I decided I’d give Organic Chem one more shot. I’d never quit on anything in my life, and words of my father, Big Jack Visger, the greatest man I’ve ever known, rang in my ears:

“Shoot your best shot.”

If I didn’t make it through Organic on this one, God didn’t mean for me to be a biologist. I was shooting the last round in my chamber.

On the fourth try, I powered through Organic – a “Short, Choppy Step.”

Physics 1B – Short, Choppy Step

Pre-Calculus – Short, Choppy Step

Bio Chem – Short, Choppy Step

In 1990, at the ripe old age of 32, with 172 units completed, gran mal seizures, and eight VP shunt brain surgeries under my belt, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Conservation. Graduating made playing in the NFL look like child’s play.Visger, George

Another Short, Choppy Step.

And I continue to take short, choppy steps each day.

 

Thank you, George.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

 

 

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . George Visger (former NFL 49er)

SPEAK OUT! – George Visger

(former NFL SF 49er)

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

#74 NFL San Francisco 49er, George Visger @ 1981

#74 NFL San Francisco 49er, George Visger @ 1981

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

George Visger

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Cypress, California, USA     visgergeorge@gmail.com

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

I was first injured – had surgery – at age 22 during the 1981 Super Bowl season with the San Francisco 49ers.

4. How did your TBI occur?

I had a number of concussions throughout my 12 years of playing organized football. My first serious concussion occurred at age 13, during my third year of Pop Warner. I was hospitalized on that one. My final, and most severe, concussion occurred in 1980 against the Dallas Cowboys. I suffered a major TBI in the first quarter, yet I never missed a play by the use of over 20 smelling salts during the game (or so I was told later in the week when my memory returned). I also never missed a practice. Several months later, early in the ‘81 season, I developed hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and underwent emergency VP (ventriculoperitoneal) shunt brain surgery at Stanford. I have since survived nine emergency VP shunt brain surgeries, including five in a nine-month period in ‘86-‘87 while completing my Biology degree. I have also had several gran mal seizures, and I have been on anti-seizure meds for over 30 years.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I realized I had a problem during the ‘81 season. I developed major headaches and projectile vomiting. I saw balls of light in front of each eye each night. The team doctors diagnosed me with high blood pressure and prescribed diuretics for over two weeks, until I suffered focal point paralysis of my right arm. The team doc diagnosed me in the locker room with a brain hemorrhage. I drove myself to the hospital, where I underwent emergency VP shunt brain surgery.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have (e.g., surgery,

tracheotomy, G-peg)?

I have had nine emergency VP shunt brain surgeries since then. They drilled a hole in my skull and installed a permanent drain tube, which runs to a pressure valve in the back of my head. They plumbed that to drain into my abdomen. I am also on Lamictil for seizures.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

Nine months after my first shunt surgery, the shunt failed while I was fishing in Mexico with my brother. It took him a day to get me home, and I was in a coma from the pressure on my brain. I had two more brain surgeries ten hours apart and was given last rites. I was 23 at the time.

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., In-patient or Out-patient and Occupational, Physical, Speech, Other)?

I was never offered rehab. In fact, I was forced to sue the 49ers for Work Compensation just to get my second and third brain surgeries paid for. Until now, it was brain surgery, out the door, and “See you next shunt failure.” I did use Vocational Rehabilitation Services when I returned to school in ‘86 to complete my Biology degree. But, I was on my own to rehab after each of the five brain surgeries that I had while finishing my degree. I discovered B.R.A.I.N. (Brain Rehabilitation And Injury Network) founded by Sue Rueb in Cypress, CA, last year while speaking at a TBI conference. I literally moved there last August to get daily treatments – first treatments I have ever had. I do neurocognitive therapy and Yoga therapy, and I counsel other TBI survivors, which helps me as well.

How long were you in rehab?

I’ve been rehabbing since August 2013.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have gran mal seizures, MAJOR short-term memory issues, poor judgment, anger-management issues, loss of direction, poor concentration, problems getting my words out or thinking of the right word, numbness in extremities, constant headaches, vision problems when my shunt goes out, diminished hearing, personality changes, problems handling finances, and brain seizures from alcohol, to name a few.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

I completed a Biology degree in 1990 at age 32 after eight brain surgeries, and I followed my second dream to be a wildlife biologist. I have never let my injury define me, and I thank God for it. I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not been injured. But recently, things have begun to spiral out of control. I lost my environmental consulting business (Visger & Associates, Inc.) in 2009, and I lost our house in 2011. My wife of nearly 19 years, and the mother of my children, and I are going through a divorce. It’s been too much for her.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?Visger, George  2008-06-15 21.03.51

I miss my family. I miss being The Giant – the guy who “could do anything,” as my wife used to say. I miss being able to remember things. I literally do not remember numerous out-of-state bow-hunts, months of my life, kids’ activities, etc.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?

I enjoy being able to use my injuries to help others. I feel it is my God given mission in life now.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

Loss of my marriage

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I’ve been helped by my belief that God has a plan for me and that “something good comes out of everything.”

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

It has destroyed my marriage, and I lost my ability to provide for my family.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Social activities were impacted, as I liked to drink back in the day. Now the only impact is that I will forget to attend a social outing. I have never been embarrassed about my injuries. I’m just as goofy now as I was before my injury.

17. Who is your main caregiver?

I was single until my late 30’s, and I have been my main caregiver ever since. My mom stepped in for a few days during surgeries, and my older brother, whom I worked with, kept an eye on me. My wife has done what she could over the years, but she has never been through a surgery with me.

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I understand better than most what it takes to be a caregiver. I also understand what caregivers go through. I call it the “Ripple Effect.” My family members and caregivers have taken a worse beating from my TBI than I have. It is much harder on our loved ones than it is on ourselves.

18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I founded The Visger Group – Traumatic Brain Injury Consulting in 2010, and I have spoken all over the country. I coordinate directly with the NFL on rule changes to reduce TBIs in football at all levels. I have spoken at congressional hearings, conduct motivational talks at schools and businesses, and currently am working with our veterans suffering from TBI. I am also suffering from frontal lobe dementia, and I hope to kick a few butts and rattle a few cages while I can, in hopes of changing the way the medical field treats TBI survivors and families. In ten years, I expect to be working with government agencies, our military, academics, and sports leagues. I plan to be leading and speaking at TBI-recovery groups.

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.

George Visger #74  4th row from bottom, 2nd from right  @ 1981

George Visger #74
4th row from bottom, 2nd from right
@ 1981

In football, there is a saying: “Short, Choppy Steps.” If you over-stride, it’s easy for someone to knock you on your butt. You want to keep your butt down, your head up, and take short, powerful 12-inch strides. Forget about breaking long touchdown runs. Get the little things done each day, and you will reach your goals. If a football team only got four yards each play – no more, no less – they would never lose a game. Think about it. They would get a first down every three plays, and they would score every time they had the ball. Life is no different. You need long-term goals for sure: score a touchdown, win the game, win the Super Bowl. But, you will NEVER get there if you don’t get your four yards a carry. We sell wrist bands on our website (www.thevisgergroup) that say “Short, Choppy Steps” and another one we give to coaches and players that says “Use your head, DON’T use your head.” Focus on small daily victories, and you’ll win the game.

20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Keep in mind everyone has a cross to bear. Carry your cross; don’t let it carry you. All of us TBI survivors have a lot to give to everyone. Turn your negative into a positive and touch people’s lives. Focus on your positives. Work hard, and put it in God’s hands. It will all work out.

That’s all anyone can do.

 

You can learn more about George Visger on his blog and these YouTube videos.

George Visger Blog – Life Before and After Football

 

George Visger talks about his life in these videos:

The Damage Done — George Visger’s Concussions

Battle Scars: Stagg High Alum, Former 49er Fights on Despite Brain Injuries

 

George Visger addresses specific topics in these very short videos:

Do Helmets Give Football Players a False Sense of Safety?Visger-275x300

Would This Retired NFL Player Do It Again?

 

Thank you, George, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)

(Photo compliments of George.)

If you would like to be a part of this project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

 

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