Warren Sapp, an American Football Hall of Fame defender, said Tuesday he is experiencing memory loss and will donate his brain to a concussion study after his death.
The 44-year-old American revealed his status in a posting on the Players Tribune website, saying he wants the sport to “be better off than it was when I started playing.”
Sapp, a retired star defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, becomes the latest former NFL player to speak up about mental issues in the wake of concussions and head injuries suffered in his playing days.
“I’ve also started to feel the effects of the hits that I took in my career,” Sapp wrote. “My memory ain’t what it used to be. And yeah, it’s scary to think that my brain could be deteriorating, and that maybe things like forgetting a grocery list, or how to get to a friend’s house I’ve been to a thousand times are just the tip of the iceberg.
“So when it comes to concussions, CTE and how we can make our game safer for future generations, I wanted to put my two cents in — to help leave the game better off than it was when I started playing.”
That’s why the 13-season NFL veteran will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
Sapp spent nine seasons with Tampa Bay and four more with Oakland, enduring thousands of blows to the head before retiring in 2007.
Sapp said his memory issues have led him to use phone alerts to remind him of simple tasks.
“We’re playing in a macho league and we’re talking about Hall of Famers now who are immortalized forever,” Sapp wrote. “There’s no way any of us wanna really admit that we can’t remember how to get home or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids to the school or whatever it may be.
“You try to (say), ‘All right, I’m gonna get a little more sleep, maybe it’s something I did last night, maybe something I drank,’ or whatever it is. You try to find a reason that it’s not that, it’s my brain. That I’m not deteriorating right before my own eyes.
“It’s the most frightening feeling but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep.”
Sapp made 96 1/2 career sacks in 198 regular-season games and won the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
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