Bernie Kosar, idolized by countless fans from his days as a Browns quarterback, is being treated by a brain specialist for head trauma he has lived with for more than 25 years.
Dr. Rick Sponaugle, headquartered in Palm Harbor, Fla., joined Kosar Thursday in a Berea hotel for a news conference lasting two hours. Kosar looked like a man who finally found an oasis after wandering in the desert for a decade. His eyes were sharp, he was slimmer than he has been in years and his speech was clearer than it has been in years.
“I had so many concussions when I played,” Kosar said. “I really didn't understand what was going on. For 10 to 12 years I've had the ringing, buzzing, constant headaches, 24/7, 365. You mask it. You try to pretend it's not there. As football players, you don't want complain.
“It was somewhat scary to read the article on Junior Seau (the former linebacker committed suicide last year. Tests released Thursday showed he was suffering from degenerative brain disease resulting from repeated concussions when he killed himself). … To feel like this and not have the headaches and to be able to sleep through the night, I really thought it was a gift from God.”
Sponaugle treats Alzheimer patients, soldiers suffering from brain trauma and patients suffering from multiple sclerosis as well as athletes. He said his method reverses brain damage and gets the brain back to where it can grow new cells through what he said is “a biochemical makeover.”
Sponaugle explained in clinical terms how blows to Kosar's head over a career spanning four years in high school, three in college and 11 in the NFL are the root cause of the insomnia, slurred speech and other symptoms that have gradually gotten more pronounced since Kosar retired as an NFL player in 1996. He played for the Browns from 1985 to midway through 1993.
Sponaugle has been addressing a biochemical deficiency with oral and intravenous nutrients to increase blood flow to Kosar's brain since around Thanksgiving. Kosar has received about 15 treatments in all. Kosar found Sponaugle while surfing the Internet last year.
“With enough G-force the brain slams up against the skull,” Sponaugle said. “The arteries that deliver blood flow and the brain chemicals that turn on the (brain's) electricity, those vessels will scar down after seven to eight weeks, whether it's a really bad game or a car accident.
“The difference is the car accident is a one-time deal when the head goes through the windshield. Bernie had his head put through the windshield every Sunday.”
The slurred speech symptom accounts for the times Kosar would sound drunk during radio interviews, Sponaugle said. He said he conducted a Positive Electron Tomography test before Kosar sounded weepy and drunk during an interview on 92.3 last month. The test measures the sugar burn in the brain, which relates to blood flow, Sponaugle said. Knowing the results of Kosar's PET scan, he said he was not surprised when he heard a copy of Kosar's radio interview.
“If the electrical current is shut down, you're going to burn less glucose because there's nothing going on,” Sponaugle said. “It measures the activity of the brain as direct as you can get.
“A traumatized brain becomes an inflamed brain. You lose the blood flow first. When you have less blood flow, you have less electricity that turns on the lights. Decreased blood flow is a disaster. That's why if you exercise five days a week for half an hour you have 50 percent less chance (of Alzheimer's).
Kosar has no ax to grind. He is not part of a class-action lawsuit involving 4,000 players suing the NFL for allegedly hiding information on head trauma.
Kosar said he suffered 12 documented concussions. There were other blows to the head that were not designated concussions. First comes the blow to the front of the head when a quarterback is hit, then to the back of the head when he hits the turf. Kosar said being tackled in Riverfront Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium or the Houston Astrodome was like being tackled on concrete. Rules have since changed to protect quarterbacks.
“I don't want any sympathy,” Kosar said. “Don't feel sorry for me. Once you get (head trauma), it doesn't get better. It gets worse, worse and worse. I needed to get to (Sponaugle) when I got to him.”
Kosar said he carried smelling salts in a little pocket on his uniform. If he got whacked in the head he would take a whiff of the smelling salts and hand off on the next play so his head had time to clear.
Sponaugle is “a pioneer,” Kosar said. Kosar is trying to hook him up with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“It's difficult to believe you can do what hasn't been done,” Sponaugle said of skeptics. “Why wouldn't people be interested in fixing their brain vs. winning the lottery? That's the way I look at it. Americans, sometimes, would rather be sick and win the lottery.”
Information about Sponaugle's wellness institute can be found at FloridaDetx.com .