BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas isn’t overreacting despite some recent spells with memory loss.
Earlier this summer, Thomas revealed he has experienced some moments of forgetfulness, but he’s not convinced they are directly connected to a lifetime of football or 10 seasons playing in the NFL.
On the eve of Cleveland opening training camp, Thomas said he’s closely monitoring recent brain studies, including one published this week by the American Medical Association. In the report, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the neurocognitive disease believed to be linked to repeated head blows, was diagnosed in 110 of 111 brains of former NFL players.
“It’s definitely something I’ve been following and paying attention to,” Thomas said Wednesday. “We have just only started to uncover the relationships between head trauma and memory loss and dementia and all those things that go with it and how that relates to the sports that we played growing up and sort of our lifestyle. It’s definitely something that as NFL players it’s good to keep our thumbs on, but I don’t think it’s anything that can scare you right now.
“But certainly monitoring is what you want to do right now and follow along as they continue the research and continue the studies.”
Thomas said doctors have told him that memory lapses — he mentioned forgetting his car keys or why he was at the grocery store — could simply be aging and the result of a busy lifestyle. Thomas has three young children, and in addition to his full-time job as Cleveland’s starting left tackle , he has other business ventures and is involved in charity work.
“Just because you forgot your keys on a day, that doesn’t mean that’s the canary in the coal mine,” Thomas said. “At the same time, you have to remember that you did play in the NFL and it is a real possibility. I’m just monitoring it and I’m not worried about it right now.”
Thomas, who has never missed an offensive snap in his career, cited his privacy when asked if he had undergone any testing after he had the memory lapses.
It’s not that he’s in denial or ignoring the problem, but he’s not going to panic, either.
“As studies come out and as the science gets better, maybe we’ll have a better idea how to handle symptoms or the lack of symptoms,” said Thomas, who believes he has never suffered a concussion. “There will be better studies and better tests for, ‘Hey, you’re an NFL player, and yes, you have an effect from the play that you’ve had in the NFL, and this is what we’re going to try to do to cope with it. Or that’s just a normal part of getting older and having more things going on in your life. Or hey, it’s just genetics.’
“So it’s obviously multi-faceted, so there’s not one answer at this point.”
Browns coach Hue Jackson said he has not spoken with Thomas about his memory issues. He appreciates Thomas’ candor on the subject and is confident the 32-year-old tackle will look out for his best interests.
“Joe loves this game and what this game has done for him and what he has done for the game, so I’m sure we’ll talk about it as we go a little bit,” Jackson said. “Is it concerning? I think we’re always concerned about our players’ safety and health and that will always be first and foremost. But at the same time, we’ll do what we think is best just like I think Joe will do what he thinks is best for him as well.”