The other day I posted a long story about a University of Missouri football player who suffered a head injury he was lucky to survive. Carried off the field unconscious in September of 1962, Don Wainwright came to 13 days later and remained a hospital patient until January. He never played football again.
Wainwright went on to a highly successful career as an industrialist, and he felt strong and fit enough on his 70th birthday to drop and do 71 push-ups. But a lot more is known today about the long-term and lethal effects of concussions than was known even a few years ago, and Wainwright’s a fatalist. “Who knows? I might have Alzheimer’s or something. Who knows when it starts hitting you?” he told me. Wainwright mentioned a Mizzou teammate of his. “Andy Russell had a lot of concussions and it bothers him from time to time. Last time we were together he mentioned it to me. And I always gave him hell about not being tough enough on the field.”
Wainwright’s football career ended in the first quarter of the first game of his senior season. Russell, also a senior, finished the season, turned pro, and played 12 years as a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, making the Pro Bowl seven times. On Monday Russell called me and talked about his own concussions.