January 30, 2023

The repercussions of CTE, which can only be diagnosed definitively after someone dies but are routinely found in soccer players when researchers are allowed to perform post-mortem examinations, can be stark: episodes of confusion and memory loss, convulsions of anger and arguments . A sharp decline in communication and decision-making skills.

“You see them really turning into a completely different person,” said Paul Crane, widow of Paul Crane, who played the Alabama quarterback and eventually developed CTE before his death in 2020.

About 60 years ago, though, long before CTE was a recognized risk, football in a place like Alabama was an intermediate point of wealth, status and envy. Yet, amid their struggles, players and their families are often reluctant to wish football away from universities or American culture. Change the sport, some say, but keep playing it.

For many of the men who played, health threats were worthwhile personal sacrifices at the time.

“I was from a small town in Tennessee,” said Steve Sloan, the Alabama quarterback who started a quarterback in the 1960s and who was later the athletic director there and a football coach for Duke, Mississippi, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt.

“I wanted a scholarship, I wanted a degree, and if I get hit in the head, that’s fine,” said Sloan, who said he did not experience the acute symptoms of CTE. lucky.”

Like Sloan, Ray Perkins came to Tuscaloosa in search of a life outside of the rural town in which he grew up. Bryant, who won six national championships before his death in 1983 and whose name is now on the 100,077-seat campus stadium, was the draw.

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