George Visger's Personal Story on Traumatic Brain Injuries in Football


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As presented by retired football player George Visger at the Second Annual Independent Football Veterans Conference held April 20 -22 2012 in Las Vegas at the South Point Resort.

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George Visger's Personal Story on Traumatic Brain Injuries in Football

  1. 1. NFL Caused TBI: Treatment &Recovery of9 Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries A 31 Year Odyssey by George Visger San Francisco 49ers 1980 &1981
  2. 2. This is YOUR Brain
  3. 3. This Is MY Brain On Football
  4. 4. Traumatic Brain Injuries “A Traumatic Brain Injury is likethrowing a rock in a pond. The ripple effect as to the number of people affected is huge.” George Visger 1986 Workers Compensation Hearing
  5. 5. TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury • Mild if loss of consciousness and/or confusion and disorientation is less than 30 minutes. • “Don’t worry, you’re only mildlybrain damaged” • 15% have symptoms > 1 year • Post concussive syndrome
  6. 6. Symptoms Of TBIPost Concussive Syndrome• Fatigue ✓✓(✓)• Headaches✓✓(✓)• Visual disturbances – sensitivity to light✓✓(✓)• Memory loss✓✓✓✓(✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓)• Poor attention/concentration✓✓✓(✓✓)• Sleep disturbances✓✓✓(✓✓✓✓✓)• Irritability-emotional disturbances✓(✓✓✓✓✓)• Seizures✓✓• Loss of motivation✓
  7. 7. Hydrocephalus Symptoms• 1981 – August• Major headaches, projectile vomitingpartial loss of visionandhearing nightly• Diagnosed as high blood pressure by team doctor –diuretics for 17 days• September - Focal point paralysis of right arm, diagnosed with brain hemorrhage in locker room, emergency brain surgery
  8. 8. Coma/Seizure/Brain Surgery History• 1981 – September. Hydrocephalus – first brain surgery during Super Bowl season.• 1982 – May. Arrested 3Xs since first surgery, all after drinking a few beers.• 1982 – May. Second & third brain surgeries 10 hrs apart. Given last rites & hospital bills. Gran mal seizures, coma and placed on Dilantin.• 1982 – May. Tested for brain seizures from alcohol. Major seizures after two beers but functioning fine. Quit drinking.
  9. 9. Coma/Seizure/Brain Surgery History• Battled creditors till 1986 for payment of 2nd& 3rd brain surgeries.• 1985 – Two additional knee surgeries• 1986 – Won Work Comp case & returned to school to complete my biology degree.• 1986 – 1987 - Four brain surgeries, and two gran mal seizuresin10 - month period• 1987 - 55 minute gran-mal seizure in Organic Chemistry 2 days post brain surgery # 6. Developed dyslexia.
  10. 10. Coma/Seizure/Brain Surgery History (and other maladies)• 1990 – December. Headache Clinic for headaches, lack of memory, increasing irritability and short tempered.• 1990 – May. Completed Biology degree• 1991 – December- VP shunt surgery # 8• 1993 - December – Major headaches, Headache clinic
  11. 11. Coma/Seizure/Brain Surgery History (and other maladies)• 1995 - Major headaches neck pain. CT scan .• 1998 – December. Gran mal seizure at work. Began taking 150 mg Phenobarbital/day. Shunt-o-gram. Radio isotope shot into spinal cord instead of shunt (nice shot Doc.)• 1998 – December 18. Shunt-o-gram radio• 1998 – December 21. Shunt-o-gram radio isotope, examined for possible shunt infection• (What is the relationship of December?)
  12. 12. Coma/Seizure/Brain Surgery History (and other maladies)• 2000 - Dr. Vijayan anger management issues• 2004 – Continuing on Phenobarb, memory issues more noticeable.• 2005 – October. Right arm clumsy & numb, top right foot numb. Arm numbness went away but numbness in foot remains.• 2006 – April. Back pain, irritability and anger management issues, numbness right foot, memory problems.
  13. 13. Prescription/Supplement History • 1982 - 1993 Dilantin for seizures – short term memory loss • 1993 – 1998 Stopped taking Dilantin due to side effects • 1998 Major seizure. Placed on Depacote – esophageal ulcers • 2003 Phenobarbital - lethargic • 2006 Kepra –short term memory issues (Lexapro for memory) • 2007 Zonegram – short term memory issues (Lexapro) • 2009 Lamictil – minimal side effects, Ambien for insomnia, (Lexapro) • 2009 12 – 18 gm/day of Dr. Sears Omega 3 fish oils, and SeaHealth Plus antioxidants. BeganHBOT treatments • 2010 Resperdal, Lexapro, Aricept and Namenda for memory, Lamictil for seizures, Ambien for sleep. Disoriented, lost, vomiting 4-5X/day, dizzy. Told to get my finances in order • 2011 Quit all drugs except Lamictil. Suddenly can think again.
  14. 14. Treatments/Test Results• 2008 – April 1. MRI of cervical spine. Degeneration of discs at C-3, 4, 5 & 6• 2009 – July. Anger management issues, referred to Amen Clinic (fought Workers Comp until October to be seen)• 2009 – October. Began Dr. Sears Omega 3’s and SeaHealth plus antioxidants to reduce inflammation• 2009 – October. Three-day neurological eval Dr. Amen’s. Micro-cog memory test = 56, SPECT = major damage to a number of areas, early stages of CTE, rated me 80% disabled. Recommended Hyperbaric Oxygen treatments and Omega 3s.
  15. 15. Treatments/Test Results• 2009 – October. Dr Amen #1 (3 day).Microcog test= 57• 2009 – November. Began Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) 1 hr/day @ 1.5 atm• 2010 – July. Dr Amen # 2 after 40th HBOT.Micro-cog test # 2 score 56 (no sleep).• 2011 – January. Dr Amen # 3 after 80 HBOTs. Micro-cog test # 3 = 59• 2011 – Sept. Dr Amen # 4 after 90 HBOTs.Micro-cog test # 4 = 64 (14% increase in memory)
  16. 16. Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) Benefits• Improves cellular metabolism• Increases ATP production• Reactivates mitochondria• Stops apoptosis (programmed cell death)• Reactivates neurogenesis in neural stem and progenitor cells.• Validated by SPECT scan, performance tests and behavior reports.
  17. 17. Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Benefits• Acute and chronic stages.• Acute (1 to 6 hours post-incident), ameliorates inflammatory response and reprofusion.• Prevents edema (swelling).• Promotes new neuron growth• Repairs damaged cells
  18. 18. HBOT Benefits• Short-term 1 - 15 treatments• Reawakens stunned cells – reduces free radicals, reactivation of mitochondria• Stops cell death (apoptosis) and long-term atrophy• Growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) and dendritic sprouting• IMPACT measures improve: short-term memory, executive function, response time.• SPECT shows apparent normalization of brain function
  19. 19. HBOT Benefits• Long-term, usually up to 80 treatments over a period of 6 months.• Stem cell mobilization up to 800%.• Continued mitochondria repopulation, dendritic sprouting and neuronal cell increase.• Permanent improvement in brain activity validated by functional imaging (SPECT scans)• Permanent behavioral changes in memory, executive and motor functions
  20. 20. Coping Mechanisms• Notebooks – write down everything• Post-Its• Beeper on computer (2 wks, 1 wk, 5,4,3,2,1 day, 4,3,2,1 hr, 30,15,5 minutes prior to appointment)• Beeper on my phone• Don’t be shy - let people know you have a memory deficit.
  21. 21. Coping Mechanisms• Bring spouse or other w/ questions.• Draft questions day before Drs appt.• Dyslexia. Double, triple check your work. Step away&clear your mind for a few minutes/hrs before checking again.• Can be triggered by standard 60 Hz electrical.
  22. 22. Coping Mechanisms• Work Comp. CA allows filing even if not a CA team.• Vocational Rehab.• Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments (first time I have improved in decades). Have your doctor write a prescription.• Omega 3 fish oils (DHA and EPA acids). Dr. Barry Sears Omega 3s. Purified.• Anti oxidants to reduce inflammation. Dr. Sears SeaHealth Plus.
  23. 23. Coping Mechanisms• Neuro-plasticity – can grow new neurons = neurogenesis.• If right handed, eat with left hand• Kids memory games.• Read• Work your brain like your muscles.
  24. 24. George Visger E-book• OUT OF MY HEAD: My Life In and Out of Football is available on Amazon Kindle for $2.99 at this link:• Can order a plain PDF file of the e-book by sending $2.99 via PayPal to