Browns' Thomas says he's already dealing with memory loss


Joe Thomas makes a living as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.

The 32-year-old tackle has been selected to the Pro Bowl every year since the Cleveland Browns selected him with the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

But his success has taken a toll and Thomas is concerned about his long-term health as it relates to brain injuries related to football.

Thomas is dealing with short-term memory loss, though he quipped it could be related to his "old age."

"I definitely expect memory loss," Thomas told Graham Bensinger. "I'm already seeing memory loss, and maybe that's just because of my old age or maybe it's football, it's hard to tell.

"I mean, there's no double-blind studies when it comes to people's life. It's just a part, I think, of sometimes getting older. And it's hard to tell it's because of football or because you're 32 and you're not 21 anymore and you've got a lot of stuff going in your life."

Thomas has a hard time remembering things like items to pick up at the grocery store.

"If you let it really bug you, I think it can make you depressed and feel sad," Thomas said. "Like, 'Wow, I don't have the memory I used to have.' But, you know, I try to be relatively good-natured about it at this point."

Thomas has never missed a snap since becoming an immediate starter for the Browns as a rookie. While he is concerned for his health and understands the risks involved with playing football, he said those are risks he is willing to accept. 

"When you look at some of the really serious side effects and diseases that come from the brain injuries you receive playing football, you look at guys with significant Alzheimer's and dementia and the mood swings and the suicides that unfortunately NFL players have been faced with, and depression, Lou Gehrig's disease. These are all things that have kind of been linked to the brain damage from football," Thomas said. 

"Those are obviously scary and frightening things, but I think from my perspective, I can't do anything about it. This was the profession that I have already chosen, and most of the damage has probably been done already.

"So what are the things that I can do to try to minimize my chances of having those negative effects down the line, and then do everything I possibly can. Then I can't worry about it. I have to accept it. But I do hope that medicine continues to improve and, in 10 years maybe, they'll be able to fix my body better than they did for the poor guys that are crippled up from playing in the NFL in the '60s and the '70s."