A Life-and-Death Puzzle
The uncertainty makes it harder to reassure players, and their families, who worry about the long-term repercussions of playing contact sports--especially since some really do have cause for concern. "Absolutely, I've had cases where [I've had to say to a patient], 'I think head trauma is causing a change in your brain function. I don't think you should play anymore,'" Kutcher says. "It's less common than my saying, 'There are a lot of other reasons for your symptoms. Let's move forward with a [treatment] plan.'"
Kutcher says that he and Eric Hipple "are very close." Hipple went through the full NeuroSport workup, and all his tests came back fine. His head was damaged for sure, and he has problems sleeping, but he always has had. He's already arranged to have his brain donated to the Boston study, but he didn't have his tau tested.
Hipple recognizes that his depression predated those hard hits on the football field, and that his and other retired players' struggles often are as much psychological as physical. Overnight, they go from being stars to nobodies, losing their support systems, their income, even their identities. "It's traumatic," he says. Even so, given the choice, he says, he'd do it all again.