Ex-Super Bowl champ Leonard Marshall to teach about concussions

By Steve Ginsburg
A football helmet's health warning sticker is pictured between a U.S. flag and the number 55 in Oceanside, California September 14, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - Two-time Super Bowl champion Leonard Marshall is teaming up with the lawyer who first sued the NFL over concussions to form an educational road show on how to avoid and treat head injuries in sports.

The target audience for the Brain Unity Trust is players, coaches and organizations, said Marshall, who suffers from CTE-related illnesses, perhaps from concussions during his 12 seasons as a defensive lineman in the National Football League in the 1980s and '90s.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain often found in athletes who suffered repetitive brain trauma.

"Leonard never had an opportunity to realize that he had an injury, that it was a problem," said Pittsburgh lawyer Jason Luckasevic, who first sued the NFL in 2011 over concussions.

"He was told that that was part of the process. You see stars, you take an Advil and that's it. There's nothing wrong with you."

Marshall, 53, who suffers from mood swings and erratic behavior, recalls the brain-jarring hits he endured during a decade of punishing practices with the New York Giants.

"First thing we did after we stretched in the morning, (coach) Bill Parcells would blow the whistle and he'd line up 14 guys across from each other," said Marshall. "He’d say, 'It's party time, boys. I want to see who’s going to quit first.'"

The object was for the players to batter each other and "and for how long," Marshall said.

"Was it fair? No. But it happened," he said.

Joining Marshall and Luckasevic in the non-profit start-up is Roberto Clemente Jr., son of the late Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer, who has developed an online program that can determine brain function over time.

Luckasevic insists the panel will not bash the NFL but demonstrate how to avoid hard hits. It will also show participants how to deal with concussions.

Medical experts will join the group at each stop.

"When we explain to people what this is, there is absolutely no negative connotation," Luckasevic said. "The only way the NFL should be mentioned is that we’re going to help people make it there because they’re not going to be playing the game with a brain injury."

The NFL has agreed to pay up to $5 million to each former player developing neurological impairment in a settlement that is under judicial review.

Brain Unity Trust plans to hit the road this spring.

(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg)