NFL tight end Ben Utecht overcomes memory loss From Concussions with LearningRx
Utecht had no memory of a friend’s wedding. Not only was he a groomsman, but he also sang at the event.
To some, he’s best remembered as the hulking, durable tight end for the Colts when they won Super Bowl XLI at the end of the ’06 season. To others, he’s best remembered for his endeavors away from the field, having sung in 16 Christmas shows with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
The last of his five major concussions was documented on the 2009 season of Hard Knocks, when he was with the Bengals. On Aug. 5, a linebacker’s helmet hit Utecht right above the face mask, leaving the tight end unconscious on the field for more than 10 minutes. An entry from his journal four days later read: “Random headaches, dizziness, sleeplessness, night sweating, loss of balance, fatigue, nausea, hard time driving in car, forgetting sentences, hard to concentrate, irritability, sadness, snapping at wife.”
Utecht writes in his book that the Bengals initially blocked his attempts to receive a second opinion from Dr. Robert Cantu in Boston; three weeks after his concussion he hadn’t seen an independent neurologist, neurosurgeon or doctor who specialized in the brain. Still, he was placed on injured reserve. By October, Dr. Cantu had been consulted; he and team doctors cleared Utecht to do “light” aerobic activity, though Utecht writes that “no one from the team’s medical or training staff gave me any sort of workout plan to follow. Basically it was left to me to figure out.” When Utecht’s headaches subsided by mid-October, he says, Thomas Sullivan, the team’s neuropsychologist, gave him permission to increase his workload to a “moderate level.” Utecht began lifting weights but was still largely unmonitored by the team. One day he attempted a triceps-extension with a 45-pound free weight, and his vision began to go black. In November he tried lifting again, and also began to do light jogging.
Without warning, the Bengals cut him on November 18. Utecht filed a grievance, arguing that he never should have been cleared to play.
Cleared to play?
In his book, Utecht writes:
I called Dr. Cantu’s office. When I told him what had happened he was nearly speechless.
“Who cleared you to play?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “The only doctor I have seen of late was Tom Sullivan, I met with him a week ago.”
“But he’s not a medical doctor. He shouldn’t be able to make that call,” Dr. Cantu said.
“There’s a lot that’s happened that seems a little unusual,” I said.
Last year Utecht underwent a 20-week, 100-hour intensive brain-training program at LearningRx in Minnesota. He says it has improved parts of his memory. His baseline testing showed that his short-term memory was in the 12th percentile and his long-term memory was in the 17th. “Both not good at all,” Utecht says. After the training, the same tests showed increases to the 78th and 98 percentiles, respectively.
Brain Training has helped thousands of people overcome cognitive weaknesses. The first step to improvement is knowing where you stand. LearningRx offers a brain training assessment for only $199. You can compare your cognitive skills with others around the country in your age group to see how you measure up. Then they’ll put together a plan to get you on the right track.