Book gives insight to dangers of concussions at early age

Anna Jensen, Opinion Editor

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The inspiring and educational novel “Unintended Impact: One Athlete’s Journey from Concussions in Amateur Football to CTE Dementia” was published on May 1; the book delves into the life of Dick Proebstle and his tragic story of CTE dementia that emerged from his lifetime football career.

The book, written by his brother, Jim Proebstle, hopes to not only keep the legacy of his brother alive, but also to educate young athletes and parents about the dangers of contact sports and the concussions that could result.

“The story is a nonfiction piece [that] deals with my brother’s life from his early athletic days in high school and college to the destruction of his later life from the concussions that he received in sports,” Proebstle said.

The major concern with concussions and CTE dementia is that there is no way to diagnose it until a person’s death. according to Proebstle.

“The hardest part of this disease is the behavioral disorder change that takes place,” said Proebstle. “When people don’t behave according to our values and norms, we tend to judge them.”

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurological disease that progressively degenerates the brain, which is essentially what creates the behavioral change. When people have the unforeseen CTE dementia, the disease tends to be overlooked as a behavioral problem. Shrinkage of the brain is actually what accounts for this negative change in behavior.

“[Our family] just thought it was a behavioral change: paranoia, disorganization, memory incurrence, and problem solving,” said Proebstle. “Brain shrinkage was what was actually occurring. By the time of Dick’s death in 2012, his brain was 70 percent smaller than the average adult brain.”

On the outside, this intelligent and financially secure man looked like he was tearing apart his life. It hardly occurred to anyone that the concussions that affected Dick Proebstle in high school and college could still be taking their toll on him at age 38.

“Dick flunked out of law school due to his migraines, he had two divorces, went from millions to pennies and ended his life living in a truck with just his dog,” said Proebstle. “It was heartbreaking to see; it tore him apart.”

Dick’s insufferable condition spiraled out of control until the people who loved him could no longer bear him and his new behavioral tendencies.

“It got to the point where his son, Mike, feared the sound of the garage door opener because he knew his father was home,” said Proebstle. “He knew all hell was about to break loose.”

In writing “Unintended Impact,” Proebstle’s goal wasn’t just to honor his brother, but an attempt to raise awareness for CTE and the dangers of playing high risk sports.

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Book gives insight to dangers of concussions at early age