A former NFL player recounts his health struggles after his play - WNEM TV 5

A former NFL player recounts his health struggles after his playing career

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Not too long ago, a football-related concussion would have been just another part of the game.

But with more and more research coming out, the effects of concussions have grabbed headlines.

Now, a former NFL player is speaking out about how the injury is affecting him years after life as a professional athlete.

"What worries me is that in the last 16 months I have seen a pretty dramatic decline," said Stuart Schweigert.

Schweigert never made it to the Super Bowl.   He started his nine-year pro career with the NFL's Oakland Raiders. He then finished it in United Football League playing for the Omaha Nighthawks.

Schweigert loves the sport. He is a co-owner of the Saginaw Sting. But he is convinced that his time on the gridiron delivering and receiving bone-crunching hits has put him on a not so slow medical decline.

"I'm telling these guys these issues that I have.  My arms go numb," Schweigert said. "If I sit for more than 30 minutes the bottom of my feet go numb.  It feels like someone is taking ice picks and shoving them into by shoulders.  My wife has to wake me up several times a night because I'm sitting there moaning."

Schweigert has noticed stunning changes to his brain as well.  He has depression, sleeplessness, anxiety and memory loss.  His wife Chrissy said that Stu recently paid the same bill three times.  

"You look at this stuff and go I'm 34. In the grand scheme of things I'm a pretty young guy. What's going to happen when I'm 45, what's going to happen when I'm 55?" Schweigert said.

With his actual diagnosis unclear, he is aware the symptoms resemble those of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. 

He is trying to find out if he is qualified to receive benefits from the NFL Players Association and also has a workman's compensation case in California 

He has gone through cognitive, mental testing, and orthopedic, physical testing.

 "I have a degree from Purdue University.  Played four years.  Finished in three and half years with a 3.1 GPA.  And I'm taking these physiological test that you would think a kindergartener can do.  And I'm sitting there struggling with it," Schweigert said.

Aside from his medical battle, he's also battling a difference of opinion between the NFL doctors and the workman’s compensation doctors.

"If I need to be above 50 percent to have access to some of the compensation that's out there due to injuries, the NFL had me at two or three percent," Schweigert said. "Which is I'm completely fine.  But in California I'm up around I would say 75-80 percent.  I'm going how do doctors or professionals in the same area rate you so differently.  So that's what I'm a little confused on."

Schweigert is on a mission to solve those questions. He is lining up more tests and has volunteered for an up-coming study on football injuries conducted by Harvard University. 

"Right now they are trying to get information from those 2,600 players from 20 year-old guys to 70 year-old guys that have played in the NFL," Schweigert said. "What are your issues?  Then they are going to take those guys and put them into categories, figure out who has what issues and then they want to take those guys and fly them out and do the testing specific to whatever they are dealing with.  Um so here we go again I don't know where I was going with that."

Over the last few years, more and more players are being diagnosed with CTE.  And the disease is being blamed for NFL players taking their own life.

The most well-known player being Junior Seau.

"I've always looked at suicide as a weak man’s option. And I take a lot of pride in being tough," Schweigert said. "But along with that, has it crossed my mind? Yes it has. But thank God I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful kids and I have a house that is paid for. I have successful businesses. I have a great family of support.  So I look at that and you talk yourself out of it." 

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