Leonard Marshall is best remembered for his crushing hit on Joe Montana in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, but the Giants defensive end also took his share of hits and tested positive for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
“The scary thing about CTE and the disease is that you have good days, you have bad days,” said Marshall, who played 12 seasons in the NFL. “There are days where you think of suicide, where you think of the ramifications of suicide and you have challenges when it comes to mood swings, the ability to recall situations, your short term memory and your lapses in judgment, and in making good judgment and good decisions when it comes to your life as well as others that you love.”
Marshall will be the Keynote speaker at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCExpo) at the Javits Center, which will take place from June 15-17. Marshall’s keynote is on the 16th. Marshall says that medical marijuana is a better alternative than the painkillers that many players were taking, as a large number of players sued the NFL in 2015 claiming that teams urged them to use painkillers to stay on the field.
“The use of medical marijuana should help players deal with early stage Parkinson’s, ALS, PTSD, and some of the other cognitive impairments which are caused by collisions in football,” Marshall said. “I think it’s a great idea, especially since it’s a proven example that there are other ways to treat this and deal with this and help families that are in need of assistance, versus them becoming hooked on painkillers.”
Marshall remembered one retired player who was abusing 1,500 painkillers a month, an average of 50 pills a day. “I can’t imagine what that did to his stomach, what that did to his heart and other parts of his body as a result of abusing himself by swallowing these painkillers.”
The two-time Super Bowl champion was diagnosed with CTE in 2013 after testing with Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith in “Concussion”), Dr. Julian Bales (played by Alec Baldwin in “Concussion”) and a number of other experts. It was a groundbreaking find, as CTE had previously only been found in the deceased. With a daughter in college, Marshall wants to show her the best of what life can offer.
“I have been afraid that I cannot deliver my promise to her as a father and a parent that I made the day she was born,” Marshall said. “I’m also afraid somewhere along the way, the point that becomes a challenge of being that guy that can deliver what I say, and do it consistently. The one thing I want to make sure of is that whatever there needs to be provided that she needs and what she will need in order to be successful in life, I’m going to do my damndest to make sure I can provide. And if I can’t provide, I’m going to make sure that those that put me in that position to where I damaged myself and created that cognitive impairment, that those people act in a responsible manner to help me treat and deal and cope with this as it relates to my life going forward.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Marshall said. “Sports and football and athletics clearly had a major impact in terms of shaping my life. I would not be Leonard Marshall, a successful football player, a professional athlete and represent the one percent of 150 million guys who have thought of or dreamed of, wished, hoped, prayed for the opportunity to do what I did.”
Marshall’s impressive career as a member of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew has helped him with his work now, as well as providing for his family. “There are many opportunities, including this one, that have been created because of my success in athletics. The fact that I got a quality education which gives me a chance to really articulate a message and have people comprehend, understand and want to gravitate to that message speaks volumes to my success in sports.”
The on-field product can still improve with regards to safety. “Would I like it to be safer? Yes. Would I like there to be a happy-medium involved? Absolutely. Do I think that over time that I’ll see that? Absolutely,” Marshall said.
Marshall feels teaching youth players the right way to play is vital, and has endorsed Practice Like Pros. According to the website, 60 to 75 percent of head trauma in high school football occurs in practice. “That’s the biggest thing when it comes to kids in sports. Make sure the people that are teaching them the game are qualified and certified and that they’re delivering a positive message that will impact the way they play and tackle while playing tackle football,” Marshall said.
Marshall also helped develop the Brain Unity Trust with Jason Luckasevics, the lawyer who originated the NFL concussion lawsuit. “Brain Unity Trust was created to educate, eradicate and to attempt to make the game safer by informing parents, siblings and significant others of those playing football. Trials and tribulations of playing tackle football and how to deal with traumatic brain injuries once it’s created from the result of their child playing a game,” Marshall said. “With their child playing Pop Warner football, as well as the other organizations that are out there, they’re allowing kids to play tackle football at such an early age without at least explaining to them what t expect as a result.”
Because of the attention given to football-related concussions and brain trauma in the last decade, former players can get the treatment they need and future pros can learn the right way to play when they are still amateurs.