Former pro football player battling CTE, warns others not to ignore symptoms

- CTE has been in the news a lot lately. It's a degenerative brain disease that's been linked to repeated blows to the head. It's especially prevelant in professional athletes playing high contact sports, such as boxing, wrestling and football.

CTE was at the center of a hit Hollywood movie a couple years ago, "Concussion" with Will Smith. And, on Tuesday, the New York Times revealed a study that found 110 out of 111 N.F.L. brains had CTE.

In Royal Oak, a former football player has the disease. He shared his story with us after the New York Times released its study. Having seen the dark side of football, the family's goal now is to make sure no one else ignores the signs of CTE before its too late.

Jonathon McCall knew he always wanted to play professionally, but something else happened to him at a young age.

"The first concussion I remember, I was playing basketball."

Jonathan would go on to be an accomplished athlete at Central Michigan, and then seven years as a pro in the Arena League. But it took a toll.

"I think that maybe I've had about 100 concussions," the 39-year-old says.

At the time, neither he nor his wife knew the damage he was doing.

"I'd question why he was throwing up for multiple days, confused for three days straight," says Jonathan's wife, Sarah. "They tell me to brush it off in so many words."

The true toll was noticed years later in retirement.

"I was doing unsafe behavior, like taking knives and cutting on my hand," says Jonathan. "Doctor said it was misplacing pain."

Eventually, he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

"With CTE, the tao proteins suck oxygen out of the brain," Sarah explains.

A recent study published by the American Medical Association examined 111 brains of former NFL players and found 110 of them had CTE.

Critics of the study say it's biased. Many families donated the brain to be studied because the former players had symptoms of CTE.

But the McCalls know it's all too real and, worse - there is no cure.

"At this point, [we're] reaching and pulling for straws to see what I can do," says Jonathan.

They've started treatment that involves a hyperbaric chamber, but it's expensive.

"And just to like go through the treatment I'm hoping we have a success story and I don't want to see him heartbroken again," says Sarah.

In the meantime, the focus is on awareness.

The symptoms of CTE for the McCall family started showing up in adulthood roughly two years ago, but it really started on the high school playing field or earlier. Having seen the dark side of the sport, their goal now is making sure no one ignores the signs before its too late.

If you'd like to make a donation to the McCall family to help them pay for Jonathan's treatments, you can do so via their GoFundMe account here.

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