By David Ariosto, (CNN) ‐‐ A nasty collision during a kickoff in 1997 left Kevin Turner seeing stars.
The former Philadelphia Eagles fullback, who spent eight seasons battering through defensive lines in the National Football League, said the hit left him wondering where he was.
Still, the team’s medical staff looked him over and eventually sent him back out to play, he said.
“The doctor looked in my eyes,” Turner recalled in a statement delivered by his attorney in response to questions from CNN. “He then told me to remember these words, either four or five simple, basic words.”
But the task proved daunting.
“It was the weirdest thing ever and most frustrating because at the time I was clamoring to get back into the game,” said Turner. “I was really trying so hard. And I remember it being just the most frustrating thing ever.”
By the second half, he’d remembered.
“I went back in the game after halftime and played the rest of the game,” he added in the statement to CNN.
A little over a decade later, the former Eagle is battling the debilitating effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
He said his doctors have told him that “there’s no cure, you’re going to die within two to 10 years, and get your affairs in order.”
Since the diagnosis, Turner has lost most of the use of his hands and arms. He’s also agreed to submit his brain to scientific study following his death.
Whether Turner’s disease, and those like it, can be linked to the consequences of repeated head trauma is the subject of growing research and the focus of mounting litigation against the NFL.
Turner is one of hundreds of former NFL players and their families currently suing the league for alleged negligence, claiming that it didn’t do enough to mitigate the risks despite what many say is an inherently dangerous sport.
His attorney, Stephen F. Rosenthal ‐‐ whose Miami‐based firm represents 137 other players and their families who’ve filed a class‐action suit against the league ‐‐ said Turner has likely suffered from undiagnosed concussions. He accused the league of deliberately withholding information deemed critical to player safety.
“At no time did the NFL inform Plaintiff Turner that he risked severe and permanent brain damage by returning to play too soon after sustaining a concussion,” the lawsuit states. “The NFL’s failure was a substantial cause of his current injuries.”
Stars such as former quarterback Jim McMahon, as well as running backs Jamal Lewis and Dorsey Levens, have filed similar lawsuits in states across the country.
Attorneys representing Lewis and Levens accuse the league of having used a “hand‐picked committee of physicians” to misrepresent evidence of the effects of head trauma, particularly concussions.
“We do believe the NFL knew and had that available information with them for many years now,” said attorney Mike McGlamry.
In response to the allegations, the league denies the claims and released a statement saying it “has long made player safety a priority and continues to take steps to protect players and to advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
“The NFL has never misled players with respect to the risks associated with playing football,” the statement added. “Any suggestion to the contrary has no merit.”A spokesman for the Philadelphia Eagles, regarding Turner’s allegations, referred CNN to the league’s statement. On Sunday, the NFL is expected to air a multi‐million‐dollar commercial during the Super Bowl that details the history of the league and emphasizes player health and safety.
She says her husband, a 41‐year‐old New Jersey native selected in 1994 by the Jets, has faced bouts of depression and severe memory loss since his retirement from the league more than a decade ago.