PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After earning three Super Bowl rings with the Steelers and a career in college coaching, football remains in John Banaszak’s blood.
It’s what remains in his brain though that worries him.
“Some people are very lucky. They have concussions and they have never had any after-effect; other people, it results in dementia and other serious problems,” said Banaszak. “And I wanted to protect myself and my family by being part of this lawsuit.”
Banaszak was one of 4,500 former NFL players and 212 former Steelers, including such former greats as Dermontti Dawson and Donnie Shell, to sue the league over concussion damage.
Four years ago, Banaszak landed in the hospital with bleeding on the brain.
“From all the testing they did then they found some previous concussion damage,” he said.
The league has agree to pay the players $765 million, but while that may sound like a lot of money, there are 18,000 former players eligible for compensation, the payouts may not address all of the need.
Banaszak says he expects no money for himself, but that dozens of former players now suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, a degenerative disease closely related to Alzheimer’s. He’s hopeful that they get immediate compensation.
“I hope so, and I think the league should take care of those fellas who help build this empire into what it is today. The multi-billion dollar industry that it is,” he said.
While not a cure-all, the former players KDKA’s Andy Sheehan spoke with say the settlement is a big step for the NFL picks 2014 in recognizing and addressing the problem.
But despite their own troubles and fears, each said the game will survive and that they, like Banaszak, wouldn’t trade their experience in the NFL.
“To be honest with you, I’d do it all over again,” said Banaszak. “There’s no question about it, and I think that 95 percent of the people who play professional football would agree with that.”
And the game will survive, helped by an acknowledgement by the NFL of the pain and suffering caused by concussions and an earnest effort to deal with the problem.