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CNN Today

Head Case: Concussions the Price Some Players Pay for Super Bowl Victory

Aired January 28, 2000 - 1:41 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: All sports eyes will be on Atlanta Sunday as Super Bowl XXXIV gets underway. But as many players will attest, it's not easy getting there. Concussions are among the price some players pay for the biggest prize of all.

CNN medical correspondent Holly Firfer has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a long, rough road to the Super Bowl, and then only one team will call themselves the best. But at what price will players vie for the title?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got stunned at first, like maybe a boxer would.

STEVE YOUNG, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: As soon as I got my wits about me, I felt fine.

FIRFER: After four concussions hard enough to knock 49ers quarterback Steve Young unconscious, a superstar in the world of sports has a questionable future. It took six concussions for Dallas Cowboy Troy Aikman to ask a lot of questions.

TROY AIKMAN, DALLAS COWBOYS: What some of the effects can be and what possible long-term effects could be.

DR. JOSEPH MAROON, NEUROSURGEON: A concussion is an injury to the brain, and it primarily affects processing in information, affect our mood, and these things are subject to permanent damage if injudicious decisions are made about playing.

FIRFER: A concussion can happen when a blow to the head causes the head to stop but the brain continues moving, crashing into the skull. It can tear or twist fibers that carry messages between cells in the brain. The results can be recurrent headaches, dizziness, fatigue, even problems with memory and concentration.

Studies show it is four times likelier and easier for a player who's had a concussion to have a second, more dangerous concussion, which can lead to permanent brain damage. This is called SIS, or Second Impact Syndrome. Meril Hoge knows this only too well. While playing with the Chicago Bears, he had two serious concussions within five weeks of each other.

MERIL HOGE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: And I was in intensive care for two days. My wife came, my brother was there with his son, and I didn't know who they were. You know, I couldn't recall anybody.

FIRFER: His career was over at age 29.

HOGE: I remember laying on the couch just thinking, how can I get back on the field? This little hand -- if you can imagine a little 2-year-old's hand come over and put her hand on my cheek and I was like, priorities are wrong here. Yes, I said, that's enough, and it actually stopped right there.

FIRFER (on camera): But some players say they've dreamed too long and worked too hard to give up a chance to play here at the Super Bowl, an attitude that some doctors say may come back to haunt them.

Holly Firfer, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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