Monday, April 25, 2016


By Ronald T. Fox

I have now posted eight commentaries on the subject of head injuries in football. The information I used in writing these pieces came from secondary sources, based on what I learned from reading various writings on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). With an expanding body of research on CTE and thousands of concussion lawsuits against the NFL, there is a wealth of information to scrutinize. Not being a football player who experienced blows to the head or a neuroscientist who has actually looked into a diseased brain, I can only offer a layman’s view of the brain injury problem. This is OK as far as it goes, but it is important to also hear first-hand accounts. I recently received such an account from a Phronesis reader who was a former NFL player.
In past posts on head injuries in football, I've criticized the NFL for its shoddy research on the long-term effects of concussions,  tardiness in admitting that CTE was a problem, belated implementation of a concussion protocol, and, most recently, for its possible collusion with Big Tobacco and its failure to provide medical care for retired players suffering from traumatic brain injuries.  My recent post, Deadly Deceit: Did the NFL Borrow from Big Tobacco's Script? drew a response from George Visger, who played for the San Francisco 49ers in the early 1980s.

Visger, who has a 1981 Super Bowl ring, relates the sad tale of his three-decade-plus struggle to get paid-for medical treatment for concussion-related brain injuries he suffered while playing for the 49ers. He has had nine brain surgeries and continues to experience hydrocephalus and frequent seizures.  Once employed as a biologist and environmental consultant, he now has severe short-term memory lapses and his information processing speed and abstract thinking skills are below average. He suffers from depression and abrupt mood swings.  Diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Visger is convinced he has CTE.  There is little reason to doubt him.

To get medical coverage for his various traumatic brain injuries, Visger had to fight the 49ers and the Travelers Insurance Company, the team's workers' compensation  insurer.  After years of litigation, he finally prevailed against the insurance giant in 2013, although a Travelers appeal and in-house cover up delayed treatment for another three years.  Visger is now finally undergoing Neurocognitive treatment at the Center for Neuro Skills in Bakersfield, California.
George Visger’s personal nightmare speaks volumes about NFL and insurance company irresponsibility and frank indifference to human suffering; it's also a story about a man's steely determination to get justice.  It is a testament to the human spirit.

For in-depth accounts of Visger's tragic story, read Aaron Gordon's Battle for Benefits, Part 2: George Visger's Many Lives, which appeared on the Vice Sports website, and  The Damage Done by Patrick Hruby, which was posted on  A google search will turn up numerous additional articles written about Visger's personal, medical, and legal struggles.  Also, check out his website, listed below.

Great piece on some of the truths behind the $11 Billion dollar NFL industry. Goodell, drawing his $44,000,000/yr salary will do anything to protect the Shield.

I played on the 81 SF 49ers Super Bowl team, developed hydrocephalus from concussions early in the season at age 22, and survived 3 emergency VP Shunt brain surgeries in 8 months. I fought creditors for years and was forced to sue the 49ers for Work Comp carrier, The Travelers, just to get my last two brain surgeries paid for.

I won my case in 84, refused their $35,000 offer to settle and kept my medical open and used Vocational Rehabilitation to return to school to complete my Biology degree in 86.

I survived 5 additional emergency brain surgeries and several grand mal seizures during a 10 month period while enrolled in Organic, Bio-Chemistry and Physics courses. I finally graduated with a BS in Biological Conservation, 8 brain surgeries, grand mal seizures and major short term memory issues in 1990 at age 32 and began my career as a Wildlife Biologist.

In 93 I survived my 9th brain surgery, yet went on to teach high school Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies and Algebra for several years and launch an Environmental Consulting firm. In 2012 The Travelers wanted me to settle both my knee and brain suit. (I had also had a knee surgery during the 81 season, and two more in 84 repairing their shoddy work, including an experimental GoreTex ACL transplant.)

In 2012 The Travelers offered me $73,000 to close both my cases. I refused, and they haven't paid a bill since. They are currently into me for over $70,000 despite the fact I was rated 100% disabled by Social Security in 2012 and forced to go out on disability. I was forced to take them back to court after they refused a Doctor’s prescription stating I needed a minimum 30 day in-house
Neurocognitive treatment at the Center for Neuro Skills in Bakersfield, CA.

We won our hearing in 2013, they appealed, we won, they took me to a 3 judge appellate panel, we won and they took me to the CA court of Appeals which we just won. All just to with hold my earned benefits! I was admitted to the Center for Neuroskills 8 days ago and have finally been receiving seven hours of treatment a day.

George Visger
Biologist/Traumatic Brain Injury Consultant
The Visger Group

george visger
George Visger Continues the Fight

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