College Football Hall of Famer, former NFL linebacker Reggie Williams pledges to donate brain to Concussion Legacy Foundation for CTE research

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

During National Suicide Prevention Month, Williams preaches hopeful, resilient message for other former players living with suspected CTE

(BOSTON) – The Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) announced today that College Football Hall of Fame and former NFL linebacker Reggie Williams has pledged to donate his brain to CLF to advance research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and concussions.

“I’m now at a point where I’ll break into tears because of the slightest trigger and I often get hot flashes of anger; it’s a constant struggle to control my mood and emotions,” said Williams, who recalls suffering at least four diagnosed concussions. “I have a very strong feeling that I have CTE, so it was a simple decision for me to pledge to donate my brain. I want to do anything I can to make football safer and help the next generation of athletes.”

At 65 years old Williams, one of the greatest players in Ivy League football history, wants to spread a hopeful message to other former football players who think they’re living with CTE, which cannot be diagnosed with certainty until death. Depression is a common symptom of the neurogenerative disease. Finding positivity and resiliency in the face of challenges has been a theme in Williams’ life, and one he details in his new autobiography, Resilient by Nature.

“CTE is not a death sentence,” Williams said. “It’s a matter of how you deal with it interpersonally and internally. You have to stay positive. You have to fight for hope every single day. You can’t give up because there are ways to manage your symptoms and live a healthy life.”

Williams played his entire 14-year NFL career for the Cincinnati Bengals and made his mark both on the field and in the community. In 1986 he won the NFL’s Man of the Year award, and during his last two seasons he served on the Cincinnati City Council. After his retirement from the NFL, Williams became Walt Disney World’s first Black vice president and was instrumental in developing the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the current home of the NBA bubble.

“We are honored by Reggie Williams’ brain pledge, which will advance research to help us understand CTE so we can better prevent and treat it,” said Chris Nowinski, Ph.D., Concussion Legacy Foundation co-founder and CEO. “Reggie is spreading a critical message of hope to the football community, showing how taking positive steps to maintain brain health can help combat symptoms. He is living proof that there are ways to feel better when you think you have CTE, and you can still live your best life.”

CLF supports the mental health of patients and families through the CLF HelpLine, which provides urgently needed one-on-one support, resources, peer-to-peer mentors, and medical referrals to people struggling with the effects of concussions or possible CTE. During Suicide Prevention Month, CLF is sharing messages of hope to remind people struggling with suicidal ideation that they are not alone, and there is help available.

Williams is one of more than 7,000 former athletes and military Veterans who have pledged to donate their brain. The CLF research registry is no longer solely focused on brain donation, and members are now recruited to participate in clinical research studies. Those who are interested in joining Williams can sign-up to pledge their brain or participate in clinical research studies at PledgeMyBrain.org.

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