This Terminally Ill Former Player Is The New Face Of The NFL's Concussion Issue

Steve Gleason, NFL, Concussions, ALS

Photo: HBO Sports

Steve Gleason only started one game in his 7-year NFL career with the New Orleans Saints but is responsible for what some consider the most important play in that franchise’s history.Gleason blocked a punt leading to the Saints’ first touchdown in the their first game back at the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina.

But three years after he last played in the NFL, Gleason was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that hits former NFL players at a higher rate and at younger ages.

HBO’s “Real Sports” caught up with Gleason and talked to him about the disease and how it is affecting his life.

On the next few pages, we’ll take a look at some of the more jarring images…

Gleason played for the Saints for seven years

Most of that time was spent on special teams, where many of football's most violent collisions occur

In 2009, after his playing days were over, he was seemingly healthy and ready for his post-NFL life

But in 2010, he noticed some muscle twitching and was diagnosed with ALS

Two years later, HBO Sports needed captions so that we could understand his words

And he is now restricted to life in a wheelchair

A large number of former NFL players have been stricken with ALS at younger ages than most people, like former Raider Steve Smith who couldn't move at the age of 45

In 2010, research revealed that repeated head trauma can cause ALS

The Saints bounty-gate tapes, in which other players were targeted for injury, only came out because Gleason was visiting the team and a filmmaker documenting Gleason was in the room

Gleason is now fighting the disease, including to help build a care facility for other ALS victims in New Orleans

He even spoke at the United Nations about improved technology for people with ALS

He also works with other victims of ALS including taking them on canoe trips

He has been honored by the Saints with a statue for his famous play in 2006

At home, he's preparing for a time when he will no longer be able to speak

And spending time with his young son

Sadly, the life expectancy of somebody with ALS is 3-5 years

And nobody can prove the hits caused Gleason's ALS until after he dies and his brain is examined

Hopefully the NFL will continue to curb violent collisions as long as there is a chance it will mean fewer cases like Gleason

Now let's take one last look at the Olympics

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