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Long Term Effects of Concussions in Youth Sports

My football career began at age 11 playing Pee Wee Pop Warner for the West Stockton Bear Cubs.  During my 3rd year of Pop Warner, I was knocked unconscious in a meaningless "Bull In The Ring" drill and was hospitalized.   I went on to to play for the undefeated and nationally ranked Amos Alonzo Stagg High in Stockton, CA in 1975, and attended the University of Colorado on a football scholarship in 1976.

While at Colorado, I majored in Fisheries Biology, played in the 1977 Orange Bowl, and was a 3 year starter at defensive tackle.  The New York Jets selected me as a 6th round pick in the 1980 NFL draft, but I ended up playing the 1980 and 1981 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, who had picked me up before the 5th game of the 1980 season, a few days prior to the first Dallas game.  After two days of practice I was put in the game early in the first quarter and suffered a major concussion on my first play.  The trainers and doctors laughingly told me later that week (when my memory returned), that I went through over 20 smelling salts during the game to keep me on the field.  They would hand me a handful each time I came out, pop a couple to clear the cobwebs, and I would go back in.

Early in the following 1981 season I underwent knee surgery, and soon after developed hydrocephalus and underwent the first of what are to date 9 emergency VP shunt brain surgeries.  They drilled a hole in my skull, inserted a tube into the ventricles in the middle of my brain, and ran the tube to a pressure valve they installed in the back of my head.  From the pressure valve, they ran a tube down the side of my neck, through my chest, into my abdomen to permanently drain spinal fluid 24/7.   I also developed Gran Mal seizures. When my shunt fails, I go into a coma and will die within a day or so unless operated on.

Four months after we won Super Bowl XVI, my shunt failed, I was brought to the hospital in a coma, had two more
brain surgeries 10 hours apart and was given last rites.  I was also given the hospital bills.  At age 23, I began a nearly 5 year battle with the 49ers to sue for Workers Comp in order to get my hospital bills paid.  I won my case in 1986, but during the battle, I had two additional knee surgeries repairing what the 49ers team doctor never repaired. My final knee surgery in 1984, involved an experimental GoreTex ACL transplant which they don't do anymore.

I have been asked many times over the years how many concussions I suffered.  I used to count the ones I was unconscious on or couldn't remember games from (~6).  They now classify a concussion as hitting hard enough to see
stars.  I had 1,000s over the years.  
It is the responsibility of all parents and coaches of young players to ensure they are coached properly. It should be a requirement of coaches and trainers to pass a protocol certification training session before being allowed to coach or clear  a player to return to play.  Parents need to be informed about the dangers of head injuries. TBI affects the entire family. I know. It's still impacting mine.

As I testified at my Worker's Compensation hearing against the 49ers in 1986, "A traumatic brain injury is like throwing a rock in a pond. The ripple effect as to the number of people impacted is huge."

George Visger
San Francisco 49ers 1980 and 1981                                                                                                               

Survivor of 9 NFL-caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries                                

Recipient of ZERO NFL Benefits