Warren Sapp: I will donate my brain to research when I die

Warren Sapp, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, announced Tuesday he will donate his brain to research when he dies.
Warren Sapp, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, announced Tuesday he will donate his brain to research when he dies. AP

University of Miami great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp announced on Tuesday that he plans to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation when he dies.

Sapp, 44, who said he has had memory loss in recent years, blames “the banging we did as football players,” and says he is donating his brain to research because “I want this game to be better when I left than when I got into it.”

He made the announcement on a video posted on The Players’ Tribune.

Sapp said: “Last month, Nick Buoniconti became the latest in a long line of former NFL players to reveal that he’s been suffering from the lasting effects of the hits he took during his playing career.

“For those of you who don’t know Nick, he’s a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a bad man in his day, too. He was a co-captain of those Dolphins teams that went to three straight Super Bowls and he was part of Miami’s undefeated ’72 team.

“Over the last few years, Nick has been suffering. He’s started falling down a lot. He has trouble doing things as simple as putting on a T-shirt, and he can’t even remember how to tie a tie. His brain — and his body — are starting to fail him. And even though he’s 76 years old, it’s hard not to think that all the hits to the head he took in his 14 years in the NFL aren’t contributing to his decline — especially knowing that CTE was present in 91 of the first 95 brains of former NFL players studied by researchers collaborating with the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

“I’ve also started to feel the effects of the hits that I took in my career. My memory ain’t what it used to be. And yeah, it’s scary to think that my brain could be deteriorating, and that maybe things like forgetting a grocery list, or how to get to a friend’s house I’ve been to a thousand times are just the tip of the iceberg. So when it comes to concussions, CTE and how we can make our game safer for future generations, I wanted to put my two cents in — to help leave the game better off than it was when I started playing.”

Sapp said an email he received from former NFL running back Fred Willis led to his decision. The email had quotes from NFL owners saying there was no correlation between football, CTE and suicides.

“I mean, where are you getting this information from and then spewing it out as if it were fact?” said Sapp, who retired in 2008 after nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and four with the Oakland Raiders

He said he has resorted to using reminders on his cellphone to keep up with day-to-day tasks.

“We’re playing in a macho league and we’re talking about Hall of Famers now who are immortalized forever, made busts and everything. Legends of the game. There’s no way any of us wanna really admit that we can’t remember how to get home, or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids to the school, or whatever it may be.

“You try to [say] ‘all right, I’m gonna get a little more sleep, maybe it’s something I did last night, maybe something I drank’ or, whatever it is. You try to find a reason that it’s not my brain. That I’m not deteriorating right before my own eyes. It’s the most-frightening feeling, but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep,” he said.

“And it’s from the banging we did as football players. We used to tackle them by the head, used to grab facemasks. We used to allow Deacon Jones to do the head slap. All of that was something that we had to take away from the game. We used to hit quarterbacks below the knees. Now it’s a strike zone. Let’s keep making the game better.”