The success of the Alabama Crimson Tide over history is undeniable, having claimed 18 titles since 1925. Even through these times not even glory could have protected players from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E. One of these individuals was former head coach and player, Ray Perkins, who died in 2020.
As reported by The New York Times, it was found that as many as four players during the 1965 championship season at Alabama suffered from C.T.E. This does not include others whose family members believe they might have it, as it can only be identified post-mortem. This team was led by the legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant to a record of 9-1-1, finishing the season with a win at the Orange Bowl against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. This was Bryant’s third of six championships won, a record not broken until 2020 by current Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Who Were The Diagnosed Players Thus Far
Besides Perkins, Ken “The Snake” Stabler, who died in 2015, and Paul Crane, who died in 2020, were confirmed to have been diagnosed with C.T.E., while Steve Bowman, who died in 2017, was suspected to have it. Another player still alive is Dennis Homan, and his family believes he has suffered from the same condition.
“In my heart, I knew he had it.” Lisa Perkins, Perkins’s widow, said in an interview with The New York Times. This marks the first time the Perkins family made their late father’s medical details public. Perkins was not only a wide receiver for Alabama from 1964-1966, but he also succeeded Bryant in coaching the tide between 1983-1986 until taking a job with Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the National Football League.
Stabler is one of the more well-known Tide quarterbacks of all time, playing 15 years in the NFL, the first 10 with the former Oakland Raiders. While playing for the Raiders he completed 1,486 passes for 19,078 yards and 150 touchdowns. His illustrious career earned him the 1974 MVP, four Pro-Bowl selections, the 1976 Super Bowl and a spot in the Hall of Fame.
A Brief History Of C.T.E. In Football
The condition of C.T.E. was discovered in 2005 by Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born forensic pathologist and neuropathologist through a study on the late Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who experienced a downward spiral in his mental health at a young age. Common symptoms of the condition are confusion, memory loss, violent episodes, and steep declines in mental health and, or decision-making skills.
The NFL had several cases like Webster’s but simply looked the other way. They would deny the findings for over a decade until finally acknowledging Omalu’s work in 2016, but more damage had been done.
“People are so scared of football dying or going away because of C.T.E. and concussions,” Rachel Perkins said as she sat in her family’s living room, adorned with memorabilia from her father’s football career. “But my answer is that my dad went away. So if you have a son, if you have a brother, if you have a husband, are you willing just to let them go away? I don’t want football to, but I think we need to worry about the people in our lives.”
Over the past decade, there have been numerous rule and equipment changes throughout football entirely in an attempt to reduce the amount of concussions players experience during their careers. Unfortunately for the many players before C.T.E. was even discovered there is nothing that can be done to help their conditions, and as time goes on more and more are diagnosed with C.T.E. during their autopsy.