George Visger – A Story to Tell

15 Jan

You have seen him post in the comments and there have been many stories written on him and his plight, but it is nice to get those involved to write about themselves as much as possible.  George Visger a former NFL player has taken the time to send along a couple of notes, it began with this email;

I played for the 81 Super Bowl champion SF 49ers.  During the season I developed hydrocephalus (water on the brain) from concussions, and underwent emergency VP Shunt brain surgery.  Four months after our Super Bowl XVI victory, my shunt failed, I had 2 more brain surgeries 10 hrs apart and was given last rites.  Also given the hospital bills, and forced to sue for Work Comp.  Completed my  Biology degree during brain surgeries 4 thru 7, now on # 9.   The long-term effects of concussive and sub concussive hits can be seen in what it’s done to my family in the following KVIE Channel 6 Sacramento link.

KVIE Channel 6  Sidelined:  Concussions In Sports   121912- http://vids.kvie.org/video/2318744182
After that was sent my way I asked for something he has written and wants to be known, and below is what I received.  Thank you for your time George;
My football and TBI career began in 1970 at age 11, playing for the West Stockton Bear Cubs Pee Wee Pop Warner team in Stockton, CA.  Twenty nine kids on the team, and 3 of us went on to play for the undefeated, nationally ranked, 1975 A.A. Stagg high squad and sign NFL contracts in 1980 (me, Jack Cosgrove, Pat Bowe).  We also had a kid on the squad by the name of Von Hayes, who went onto a multi-year MLB All Star career with the Cincinnati Reds.During my 3rd year of Pop Warner, I knocked myself unconscious in a worthless Bull – In – The – Ring drill and was hospitalized.  This was the only “diagnosed” concussion I sustained, despite playing several games through college and pros where I have no memory of playing.

Early in the 1980 season with the 49ers, I sustained a major concussion in the first quarter of a Dallas Cowboy game (see link below).  Despite the trainers and doctors administer over 20 smelling salts to me during the course of the game, I never missed a play or practice.  The trainers told me laughingly about this later in the week when my memory returned.

During the following 1981 Super Bowl season I underwent knee surgery, and several weeks later began experiencing major head aches, loss of hearing with the beat of my heart, balls of light in front of each eye and projectile vomiting each night.  The team doctor diagnosed me with high blood pressure and prescribed diuretics.  Two and a half weeks later, I suffered focal point paralysis of my right arm.  The 49ers’ team doctor diagnosed me with a brain hemorrhage in the locker room.  He directed me to go home, lie down and drive myself to Stanford Hospital that afternoon to be examined by a neurologist.  I did as told.  The neurologist took one look at me, did a CT scan, and rushed me into emergency brain surgery.  That night they installed a permanent VP Shunt to drain fluid from my brain to my abdomen.  A hole was drilled in my skull and a tube was inserted into the ventricles in the middle of my brain.  The tube was run to a pressure valve (VP
Shunt) they installed in the back of my head.  From the shunt a tube was installed down the side of my neck and into my abdomen to permanently drain spinal fluid from my brain.  I had developed hydrocephalus, water on the brain.

For 14 days I was in intensive care,  during which time both of my room mates were cut.  I was informed by the trainers I could still play if I wore a special made helmet they were looking into having constructed to protect the plumbing they installed in my head.  I was all in for playing again.

I returned to the team, worked out the rest of the season on Injured Reserve, and underwent 2 more emergency brain surgeries, 10 hours apart, just four months after we won Super Bowl XVI.  During the 3rd surgery I was given last rites.  I was also given the hospital bills.  During my several year battle for Workers Compensation to get my bills paid, I had two additional knee surgeries to repair what the 49ers orthopedic surgeon neglected to repair, including an experimental Gore-Tex ACL transplant.  I won my Workers Comp case and enrolled at Sacramento State University to complete my Biology degree in 1986.  During a 10-month period in 1987, while taking Physics and Chemistry courses, I survived four additional brain surgeries.  I also developed gran mal seizures and dyslexia, and suffered a 55 minute seizure sitting in Organic Chemistry 3 days post brain surgery.

In 1990 I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Conservation at age 32 and began my career as a wildlife biologist, despite major short-term memory issues, dyslexia and seizures.  In 2003 I started my own environmental consulting business, and began The Visger Group, Traumatic Brain Injury consulting in 2010.  I have now survived 9 emergency VP shunt brain surgeries, several gran mal seizures and was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia 3 years ago.  I continue to work as a wildlife biologist, and in February of this year devoted my work full-time to The Visger Group, Traumatic Brain Injury consulting.   I’ve been featured on NPR, CNN, CBS Evening News, KRON, KVIE and will featured in an upcoming ESPN Outside The Lines by Patrick Hruby in January of 2013.

In 2012 I received an award on the California Senate floor for Traumatic Brain Injury advocacy, and was recipient of the California Brain Injury Association’s Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor Volunteer of the Year award at their annual conference.  I currently conduct training seminars at Brain Injury Recovery conferences, consult with the NFL on rule changes to reduce TBIs in football.  I recently prepared a program for the NFL to treat acute TBIs with hyperbaric oxygen which will be implanted during the 2013 NFL season.

This is also a reminder to anyone out there that would like to share their story, you have space here.  – Dustin Fink, MS, ATC
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4 Responses to “George Visger – A Story to Tell”

  1. Jay Fraga (@aggrobikes) January 15, 2013 at 12:41 #

    Incredible story.Thank you, George. And thank you, Dustin, for continuing to provide an excellent medium for increasing awareness!

  2. Irvin Muchnick January 15, 2013 at 14:30 #

    Dustin, thank you for this post. A year ago George Visger wrote a short ebook for my Concussion Inc. imprint entitled “OUT OF MY HEAD: My Life In and Out of Football.” It is available on Amazon Kindle at http://amzn.to/znZuiL or as a plain PDF file for sending $2.99 via PayPal to paypal@muchnick.net. 100% of the Amazon royalties and direct-email revenues go to George (who could use them).

    Irv Muchnick

  3. Blake Robert Byers October 31, 2013 at 21:23 #

    Hello my name is Blake Byers. I am the son of Tony Byers of Stagg High class of 75. I have also had a tbi and many brain surgeries. I would love to speak with you George.
    I currently finished an Environmental Technology education and look forward to my future in water science.

    Thank you

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