Charlie Garner is a former NFL running back who rushed for over 7,000 yards and 39 touchdowns across an 11-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At 45-years-old, he is also the latest former professional football player to open up about the effects the sports has had on his body and brain.
Garner’s doctors believe the athlete is already experiencing the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Considering Garner also says he experienced “at least” 12 concussions per seasons during his career, it seems highly likely they are correct that the athlete has developed the permanent brain disease linked to repeated head trauma.
“This is friggin’ serious,” Garner said, per Sporting News. “The doctors said this was going to start happening and now it’s happening.”
While it is currently impossible to definitively diagnose Garner with the neurodegenerative disease until after death, his symptoms read like a textbook description of the signs of CTE.
“I don’t have all my faculties anymore,” Garner said. “I can’t remember things. When I go to the mall or grocery store, I have to take one of my kids with me to remember where the car is parked. I have trouble remembering conversations I had five minutes ago. Bright lights bother me. I just don’t feel right all the time.”
Even more frightening for Garner is the distinct possibility that the symptoms he is experiencing are likely to get much worse with time.
“I haven’t had depression or anything like that,” Garner said. “But it scares the heck out of me. The doctors say it could get worse.”
Garner was one of the thousands of former NFL players involved in the lawsuit regarding the NFL’s handling of information on concussions, but he is only now beginning to understand the full scope of the severity of CTE and concussions in football.
“Football gave me a good lifestyle for me and my family,” Garner said. “But I might end up paying a big price for it. Other people already have paid a big price for it. People ask me all the time if I would do it all over again if I knew more about concussions. I say yes, but I would do it as a defensive back because I wouldn’t have taken so many hits.”