Mike Adamle has always been a part of something bigger than himself -- from football to sports broadcasting to now, his recent diagnosis.
The former professional football player and NBC 5 sportscaster revealed in an interview that aired Tuesday night that he is suffering from a condition doctors believe could be chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, but that’s only one part of his story.
“If it is [CTE], I’d like to be the poster person for the first guy they’ve found diagnosed with CTE and lived to tell about it,” he said.
At first, Adamle thought his diagnosis was nearly impossible. So far, researchers only have been able to test for the disease post-mortem, though some say they have made progress toward earlier diagnosis.
In sharing his story, Adamle hopes to raise awareness about the condition, particularly for other athletes who may be suffering, and for their family members who may be unaware of the symptoms.
“If it’s one person, 10, I don’t care,” he said. “Just somebody.”
Though CTE was discovered decades ago, researchers only recently linked the condition to professional football players.
The connection between football and CTE was first discovered by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist who performed an autopsy on Mike Webster, the center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2015 movie “Concussion” documented the discovery of the link, which the NFL did not acknowledge until March 2016.
“There’s a lot of me’s out there,” Adamle said. “People don’t know it and they should.”
Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, problems with impulse control, aggression, depression, and eventually the final stage, progressive dementia.
“There’s a lot of things that are supposed to happen to you down the road, and every day I see myself going down that road and I get depressed and try to change things to get back on track,” Adamle said. “So that’s what my daily life is like. I wish I was still working but…”
He has been off the air at NBC 5 since last March.
In addition to seizures, Adamle, 67, said he suffers from dramatic mood swings, episodes of rage, depression, anxiety and memory loss. He has also been diagnosed with dementia. His neurologist, Dr. Michael Smith of Rush University says, “we don’t know what the dementia is caused (by), but CTE is certainly a probable contributor if not the only cause.”
"Every day I go off and cry because losing parts of this man that I love to just really little bits every day," said his wife Kim Adamle.
Adamle has decided to attack his diagnosis the same way he attacks life – with vigor.
“Anything that can do things that can help the cognitive functioning, this is great,” he said. “Whether it’s yoga, which I do, ballroom dancing, that kind of stuff, which I do. Things that get you closer to people.”
“They have all these ballroom dancing things,” he added. “I’m horrible… Again there’s all these steps though that you have to remember.”
He also uses boxing, biking, running and poetry to help work on his memory.
"If you're learning something like boxing for the first time, you're learning to use different parts of your brain that you never used before," said David Englund, head coach at the Evanston Boxing Club.
Though Adamle can’t work and can no longer drive, he finds solace in working out and working around the house. He also spends time educating himself on CTE and brain trauma.
“I didn’t want to make a big thing out of this,” Adamle said. “I’m no hero, but there’s a lot of us out here and there’s a lot you can do to mitigate some of these things.”