JUPITER, Fla. - If there is one person who had the guts to fight his way on the gridiron in order to find the glory of a Super Bowl victory, it’s NFL legend Joe Namath.
The 73-year-old still carries a beaming smile when he enters a room and a rather sharp mind considering all the hard hits he took during his playing career.
“We called it getting your bell rung. I can remember some hits afterwards, I remember the initial shock, I remember seeing a gold light,” said Namath.
The spotlight found Broadway Joe long ago and shined a bright light on a football career, filling it with memories on and off the field.
Now, decades later the trauma he endured came full circle a few years ago when he reached out to a teammate who was suffering from a history of concussions.
“You start questioning your memory. You start questioning your retention of something. I wasn't having the problem my teammate was having, but he alerted me this could get worse,” said Namath.
The legendary quarterback found himself at Jupiter Medical Center where a brain scan revealed damage, so he began a clinical trial.
He then had 120 treatments inside a hyperbaric chamber, receiving oxygen that made a lasting impression.
The Neurological Research Center now bears his name and 100 patients, from war veterans to race car drivers who have suffered traumatic brain injury, are undergoing therapy.
This is invaluable data that could one day lead to better treatment.
“If somebody gets injured in a game, they could put them in a chamber and maybe minimize the amount of problems they have from their brain injury down the line,” said Dr. Barry Miskin at Jupiter Medical Center.
In fact the proof is in the brain scans.
Dr. Lee Fox, the chief of radiology at Jupiter Medical Center, said that Namath's brain scan before and after his 40 treatments show improvement.
“All that was missing there has now come back,” said Fox.
Namath’s brain basically woke up on his left side where he got clocked often in games. Now, he has more energy, more memory and more activity.
“I feel good about it and I haven't stopped trying to improve. I test myself I do little things,” says Namath.
For football players, the data could one day align with recent concussion protocols and rule changes adding increased safety.
More importantly it could reverse a trend among some that has threatened even the youngest players keeping them off the field.
“We have to make the game is as safe as possible, so families still allow their young children to play so that a 10-year-old boy who starts playing football, when he's 30 years old and played 8, 9, 10 years in the league he's going to get out of the league with a very healthy brain and very healthy head,” said former University of Miami QB and NFL player Steve Walsh.
For Namath, it’s all about prioritizing brain trauma and keeping it on the current track where developments and improvements will pave the way for memorable careers in the NFL long after players hang up their helmet.
“I plan on being around for awhile, so I need to feel productive. I need to feel like I'm taking care of this instrument on a daily basis, and I know I'm the only one who can do that,’ says Namath.