Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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CTE diagnosis hit Dorsett 'like a ton of bricks'

Tony Dorsett. (Martha Irvine/AP file)
Tony Dorsett. (Martha Irvine/AP file)
Tony Dorsett. (Martha Irvine/AP file) Gallery: CTE diagnosis hit Dorsett 'like a ton of bricks'
Dallas Cowboys great Tony Dorsett confirmed Wednesday that he has signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative condition that scientists have linked to depression and dementia.

"It hit me like a ton of bricks," said the Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, confirming an ESPN Outside the Lines report that he and two other former NFL players received a diagnosis of CTE after three months of brain scans and clinical testing at UCLA.

"Not a good thing," said Dorsett, 59. "I'm looking at ESPN, and [the news] is rolling across the ticker tape."

The other players, according to Outside the Lines, were Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure and former all-pro defensive lineman Leonard Marshall. Another unidentified player was tested, but his results were not available.

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  • Dorsett said that a UCLA researcher phoned him Monday in Dallas to give him the news. Last year, according to Outside the Lines, UCLA tested five other former players and found signs of CTE.

    That was the first time researchers had found signs of the disease in living former players. The disease is shown by a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein that strangles brain cells.

    "Don't ask me what tau protein is because I don't know exactly what it all is," Dorsett said. "All I know is that before, [doctors] could only be able to find tau if you die first and they open up your brains."

    Dorsett, who has battled memory loss and depression for several years, is among more than 4,500 former players who are plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the NFL. Last month, plaintiff attorneys and the NFL announced they had reached a $765 million settlement, though it has not been legally finalized.

    "It's enlightening to know what I have, what I'm dealing with," Dorsett said. "Now it's time to find out, how can we can come back from it? I actually was told [by researchers] that it can be reversed. I was like, 'What?' They said, 'Yeah, it can be reversed, slowed down, stopped.' I'm like, 'Oh, OK, so we need to get on out of here and get on that program immediately.' "

    CTE has no known cure, though according to the Outside the Lines report, researchers are hopeful that findings in Dorsett and others will lead to treatment. Dorsett said he already has been placed on a new nutrition and vitamin regimen.

    "But I'm not being inactive," Dorsett said. "I'm being proactive. I'm trying to cut it off at the pass, slow it down, do whatever I can to fight this thing. But it's tough, man, it's frustrating as hell at times."

    Brad Townsend DALLAS MORNING NEWS
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