Former Boston Patriots and Miami Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti has died at the age of 78, after a years-long struggle with dementia and likely CTE, the same degenerative brain disease other professional football players have suffered from. He announced two years ago he intended to donate his brain to science.
Buoniconti won two Super Bowl rings and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After his last NFL game, he fell to his knees and kissed the ground and, “Thanked God that I’d never been seriously hurt,” he told Sports Illustrated. He knew that the game was tough on players’ bodies. His son Marc became paralyzed after suffering a neck injury on the football field.
It was decades later that Buoniconti learned he likely didn’t come out of his 14-year NFL career unscathed when he was diagnosed with dementia. Convinced repeated blows to the head caused his degenerative condition, he took his battle public in an HBO documentary that revealed his struggle doing simple everyday tasks. Buoniconti drew parallels between his condition and his son’s. “We’re both paralyzed,” he said. “It’s not pleasant to think about where my life is going to take me.”
When Buoniconti’s son was injured, he refused to place the blame on the rigors of football. Years later, after his own diagnosis, his opinion changed. “I’m positive of that … football caused this.”
Buoniconti recalled playing much of the 1971 Super Bowl in a daze after getting knocked in the head. It would be decades later that researchers would draw a connection between repeated concussions and the buildup of the protein tau that leads to the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Dozens of former pro football players have donated their brains to science, currently the only way the condition can be diagnosed. Buoniconti will now be among them.
Beasley Allen lawyers are active in supporting efforts to research traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its long-term health effects. Mike Andrews is President of the Board of Directors of the Alabama Head Injury Foundation (AHIF), and Stephanie Monplaisir is past President of the AHIF Montgomery Chapter. If you would like more information on this topic, they would be happy to talk with you.