Warren Sapp wants to leave the game of football better than he found it. That’s the reason that Sapp will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for research after his death.
Sapp said via The Players’ Tribune that he was moved to action when he received an email from retired running back Fred Willis. Willis shared some quotes from NFL owners about concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE.
“Down the line, you can see them,” Sapp says. “‘There’s no correlation between football, CTE, suicides,’ and all of this foolish stuff. Where are you getting this information from? And then spewing it out as if it’s fact.”
Sapp, who played 13 seasons in the NFL, says he’s started to experience memory loss.
“And yeah, it’s scary to think that my brain could be deteriorating, and that maybe things like forgetting a grocery list, or how to get to a friend’s house I’ve been to a thousand times are just the tip of the iceberg,” Sapp said.
“So when it comes to concussions, CTE and how we can make our game safer for future generations, I wanted to put my two cents in — to help leave the game better off than it was when I started playing.
Sapp is not the first former player to pledge his brain to science after death. Retired quarterback Matt Hasselbeck made the same commitment in May, along with former Jets defensive lineman Leonard Marshall. Eric Winston, a Bengals offensive tackle and the current president of the NFLPA, will also donate his brain for research.
They join former 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross, Miami Dolphins and Washington guard Keith Sims, and cornerback Shawn Springs, who played for the Seahawks, Washington, and the Patriots. The Concussion Legacy Foundation received 30 new pledges from former NFL players in February.
Former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau’s family gave his brain to the National Institutes of Health following his suicide. Researchers at NIH determined that Seau did suffer from CTE.
"It's important that we take steps to help these players,” Seau’s ex-wife, Gina, told ESPN. “We certainly don't want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes."
The NFL has made progress to make the game safer for players, but there’s plenty of work to be done. More research to better understand CTE and how to prevent it is a step in the right direction. That will be Sapp’s legacy, and the legacy of all of these other players who are donating their brains for the greater good.