Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas opened up for the first time Friday about the effects of concussions he suffered during his 13-year NFL career.
The former Buffalo Bills star, who turns 50 next month, said at a concussion summit in Canada that he suffers from mood swings and that his condition has worsened.
"Still to this day, I can't control my mood swings," he said at the District School Board of Niagara's international summit on concussions, via the Niagara Falls (Canada) Review. "On so many days, I have to apologize to my family for them. I thank God that I have a family that understands the things that I've been through over my 13-year [professional] career, and even after my 14 or 15 years that I've been retired. They all understand that with my mood swings, sometimes I just can't help it."
Thomas told the crowd that he had not yet publicly discussed his symptoms.
"One thing that I realized is that discussing the effects of concussions and the reality of the situation doesn't make me less of a man, less tough, less loyal to the National Football League, a less love for the game," he said. "All it means is that I'm not an ignorant fool, and that I don't ignore factual evidence that this is happening to not only football players, but [other athletes]." Thomas carries notes with him because he often can't keep focused, and he told a story about getting lost on a familiar road a few years ago.
"I didn't know where I was, and I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "I had to make the most difficult call I've ever made. I had to pull over on the highway, call my wife and explain to her the events that just happened. She said, 'You need to come back home.' I knew that there was a problem."
The Bills' all-time leading rusher, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, Thomas soon saw a doctor to assess his condition.
After an MRI, the doctor said Thomas' frontal lobe of his brain was "similar to someone who has fallen off the top of a house, on to the front of his head, or going through a windshield of a car several times.
"He said decent ... for an NFL football player who had just played in the National Football League for 13 years. Not great, but decent."
Thomas said his condition is "getting worse."
His 14-year old son has also suffered from concussions from playing football.
"My wife just doesn't want him to play at all," he said. "I don't want to discourage parents from letting their kids play a physical sport. The technology is getting better. We're doing more studies."