49ers’ Joe Staley, Brian Hoyer, Kyle Juszczyk reflect on latest CTE study – ESPN (blog)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Early last week, just a couple of days before the majority of NFL teams opened their training camps, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a new study that found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease, in 110 out of 111 deceased former NFL players.

The discovery of CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, in 99 percent of the former NFL players who had agreed to the test was startling for a trio of current San Francisco 49ers players. As one might expect, such a development was enough for active players such as quarterback Brian Hoyer, left tackle Joe Staley and fullback Kyle Juszczyk to step back and take another opportunity to ponder their place in the game.

Although all three noted that the study was centered on players who had suffered from head injuries in their careers, they also acknowledged that the results were eye-opening.

“I think any player who tells you that they havent put some sort of thought into it, they are not being truthful with you,” Juszczyk said. “Its a scary statistic, and I think if you dive into those stats, youll see it wasnt a perfect test. It was guys who have already shown symptoms and have volunteered because they wanted to find out exactly whats going on. I think theres a lot more studies that can go into it, but its still there and its definitely something you have to be concerned of as a player.”

Staley struck a similar tone.

“I mean, its definitely on your brain,” Staley said, pardoning the pun. “Its on your mind. You see it. Id be lying to you up here if I didnt say I dont think about it. You know the risks playing football. I heard Brian [Hoyer] talk about it, and I believe youve got to be proactive in the treatments and what you do for yourself in keeping your brain active and occupied, especially after the game of football is done. Youve got to treat it just like any kind of injury. Youve got to rehab it and do what you can do to try to stay ahead of it.”

For Hoyer, the issue hits a little closer to home, given his history with head injuries. During the 2015 season, Hoyer dealt with a pair of concussions in a month’s span that caused him to miss three games late in the season. In his efforts to heal from those injuries, Hoyer was proactive in trying various recovery methods.

Hoyer went to such lengths as investing in a hyperbaric chamber, going through acupuncture therapy and installing and using an app called Brain Headquarters, which offers mental games intended to help with concussion rehab.

In addition to those treatments, Hoyer also did plenty of research on his own and paid a visit to Dr. Micky Collins, a brain specialist based in Pittsburgh. The 31-year-old signal-caller said his biggest takeaway from those sessions is that the best way to deal with concussions is to treat and rehabilitate from them as one might with other injuries.

“Theres different types of concussions, and theres different things you can do,” Hoyer said. “So, ever since then, I try to stay on top of things that keep my brain active. I try to read a lot more; I wasnt very much of a reader. My high school teachers will probably tell you I didnt do well on my summer reading assignments. You try to read a lot more; theres some brain games you can do.

“Obviously, we know the risks as NFL players. Obviously, theres a lot of studies out there. But Im pretty confident with the changes of technology, equipment getting better, obviously our medical staff being better. You prepare for those situations, and after talking to some specialists, obviously theres some risk involved, but I think theres also a way to make sure you take care of yourself and do the things that are proper. Diet, exercises — you know, you can exercise your brain too — so thats something Ive kind of talked about implementing into your training regimen. Theres things that you can do for that too.

To be sure, concussion research is still in development, and there’s plenty more to learn about the long-term effect of those injuries. For at least three Niners, attention will continue to be paid to what that research reveals, even if it doesn’t change their minds about taking on the risks that come with playing the game.

“Ive put thought into it, but I love this game so much I wouldnt take a snap away from my career to leave early,” the 26-year-old Juszczyk said. “Thats just my feelings on it. This is a game that I love so much that Im willing to put it on the line.”

Staley offered his thoughts on the matter.

“The studies are out there. They are what they are, but I dont think, I mean, I wouldnt trade my position,” Staley, 32, said. “Im very happy playing the game of football. Its something I love and I continue to do so.”

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49ers’ Joe Staley, Brian Hoyer, Kyle Juszczyk reflect on latest CTE study – ESPN (blog)

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