CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, one of the plaintiffs in the successful class-action concussion lawsuit against the NFL, said Tuesday that treatment to relieve pressure on his brain has helped him with pain, but dementia will be with him for life.
During a 30-minute conversation, McMahon mentioned suicide several times, WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports.
“I can see how guys, now, how some of these guys have ended their lives, because of the pain,” McMahon said.
McMahon was in Chicago on Tuesday ahead of the Sports Legacy Institute’s first annual Chicago gala on Wednesday evening, when he’ll be honored for becoming a public face of the concussion issue in the NFL and sharing his personal story of how brain trauma has affected his life.
McMahon said the NFL long has mishandled player injuries, including concussions. He said he was forced to play with a broken neck, an injury he didn’t even know he until five years ago – 13 years after he retired.
He said his neck is brought back into alignment every few months, a procedure that takes pressure off his brain and helps with pain and memory. McMahon said that might be why he’s alive today.
“I’m glad I don’t have any weapons in my house, or else I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
McMahon talked about dark days and months spent in bed in a dark room because of migraines.
“It got to the point I wouldn’t come out of my room. I’d be in there for weeks and months at a time,” he said.
McMahon’s girlfriend, Laurie Navon, said it’s scary to know he has contemplated suicide.
“You know, it’s very scary to hear somebody saying, ‘You know what? I get it, and I could do it.’ And you go, ‘What?’” she said.
He said some days can be extremely frustrating.
“I’d have to call Laurie on the way home and say ‘I don’t know where I’m at. I don’t know how I got on this road,’” McMahon said. “I told her, ‘Aliens abducted me and put me over here.’”
In a lighter moment, McMahon said dementia has helped his golf scores because he can’t remember half his shots.
McMahon said other players are worse off than he is, such as his friend and former teammate Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in 2011.
“Some of these guys are homeless,” he said. “They don’t know who they are. They were the ones that built this brand to where it’s at.”
Duerson donated his brain for concussion research, and doctors found he’d suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease caused by repetitive brain trauma that was found in several deceased NFL players.
Duerson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL after his suicide, and that case was later consolidated with other concussion lawsuits against the league. The NFL agreed to settle the case for $765 million, but a judge later rejected the settlement deal, fearing the money might not be enough to cover 20,000 retired players.