Posted on June 13, 2010 · Posted in Brain Injury

Showing Signs of Brain Damage Motivates Turley

Former Kansas City Chief Kyle Turley was the Ben Roethlisberger of his day. After sustaining several bad concussions playing, Turley began having what you could call anger-management issues and acted erratically.

He will always be remembered as the player involved in the infamous helmet-throwing incident when he was playing for the New Orleans Saints in a game against the New York Jets in 2001. Trying to protect the Saint’s quarterback,  Turley pushed  Jets safety Damien Robinson to the ground, ripped off his helmet and threw it across the football field.

Turley was tossed out of the game, fined $25,000 by the Saints and ordered to take anger management courses.

Today it would hard to find any former player more active than Turley in the battle to make the National Football League really try to help present and former players who have brain injury.

It makes sense that Turley is championing this fight,  because it looks his concussions have had a permanent impact on his brain. Last August he collapsed in a club, and later went in and out of consciousness. Now doctors suspect he may be showing the first symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative neurological disease that contributed to the deaths of ex-NFL players Andre Water and Justine Strezelczyk.

Turley is a textbook case of how concussions might impact a player’s behavior, and not for the better. The helmet- tossing incident was not his only embarrassing moment in football.

After suffering a severe concussion in 2003 when he was playing for the Los Angeles Rams, Turley went into the locker room, took a shower and was sitting by his locker naked when team owner Georgia Frontiere came in. He stood up and gave her a big hug, standing there stark naked.

In a recent exclusive interview with the blog Arrowhead Addict,  Turley offered some talk about his problems after sustaining head injuries, why he’s donating his brain to research on head trauma, and about how the NFL has failed for so long to admit the relationship between football-related-brain injury and later brain disease.

Turley testified before a Congressional committee last fall about his experiences, and lack of proper care, after sustaining numerous head injuries while playing for three NFL teams.  He didn’t like what he heard when he was in Washington from the NFL and still doesn’t think the league is taking its responsibility to stop brain injury and help players very seriously.

Turley, who is now pursuing a music career in Nashville, told Arrowhead Addict that he agreed with prior remarks by Terry Bradshaw, namely that the NFL has been reactive, not proactive, in terms of dealing with the repercussions of player brain trauma.

At the hearings on the NFL and brain injury, Turley recalled watching a league doctor deny that football was the cause of long-term brain injury in players.

“So many guys have gone without being approved for disability and having the ability to get treatment,” he told the blog. “Guys have died, guys that were great players in this game, you know Andre Waters and Justin Strzelczyk and a few other guys that have had the same, I mean, Mike Webster had the same brain trauma as Justin Strzelczyk and Andre Waters and these others. The long-term effects from playing the game of football. There’s no question that there’s a direct relationship….To deny that this evidence exists and deny that there is any relation to these issues from football was offensive and shows exactly the NFL’s stance on the matter.”

Turley is one of a number of  ex-NFL players who have agreed to donate their brains to the Boston School of Medicine, which is creating a bank of brains to examine as part of its research on head injury and future brain disease. That research may spare potential future players, like his 1-year-old son, from the  brain trauma and the anger-management problems that Turley has lived with, he said.

“I’ve suffered some issues with my feelings with my head injuries from football and its been difficult for me to deal with certain things and it has caused me to have take different medications and all kinds of other things that I don’t want my son to have to do,” he told Arrowhead Addict.

The NFL in April donated $1 million to help fund BU’s brain-injury research. Whether it was a PR stunt or genuinc gesture  on the part of the league remains to be seen.

Besides, Turley pointed out that $1 million is not a lot of money for the NFL to ante up.

“If they want to make a dent in this thing the NFL’s going to have to commit some serious dollars to this research so that they can come up with solutions and not just play this fame,”  Turley said in his blog interview.


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447