MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami Dolphins icon is in the fight of his life.
Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti is suffering from a brain disorder, which he disclosed in a new article from Sports Illustrated.
"I can't remember how to lace my shoes," Buoniconti said. "My left arm won't do what my brain tells it to do. The answer would be "no" I would not have played football."
In an emotional interview, Buoniconti details his recent health struggles including memory loss and confusion. Problems he attributes to a high frequency of hits in his 14 year career.
"To see him in this situation, a guy who's been so capable his whole life, it's heart breaking," said former Dolphins linebacker and teammate of Buoniconti, Kim Bokamper.
Bokamper says he isn't surprised by Buoniconti's revelation but understands why former NFL players are reluctant to talk about the symptoms associated with head injuries.
"You've been taught as a young kid all the way through football to just, hey you know what, just fight through it," Bokamper said. "You sprain an ankle tape it up and fight through it. You pull a hamstring, fight through it. I think that's the mentality of guy that comes out of football that played for any length of time, 'hey let me just fight my way through it.'"
There's more and more evidence linking football and the debilitating brain disease known as CTE.
CBS Miami's Mike Cugno spoke to doctor Brad Herskowitz, a neurologist at the Baptist Health Neuroscience Center who says the problem with the disease is that it can't be diagnosed until after a person has passed away.
"We do know a lot about concussions," Dr. Herskowitz said. "We do know that repeated concussions can cause dementia and CTE but there's a lot we don't know." He went on to say "the symptoms initially are some slowing. Some difficulty thinking leading to dementia and memory disorders."
Buoniconti, 76, told Sports Illustrated he may have taken 500,000 hits to the head in his football days. And believes it's the source of his current health status.
Buoniconti told the magazine he has "neurocognitive and neuromotor deficiencies. They're only getting worse they're not getting better."
According to the article, Buoniconti and his family are planning to donate his brain for research in the hopes of learning more about brain disorders like CTE.
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