George Visger was born on September 26, 1958. He is now 58 years old and lives in a trailer behind his brother's house. He has trouble remembering things, such as what he was talking about five minutes ago. Reading a newspaper can take him all day and reading the comics can be considered a chore...
Ever since he was little he played football. At age 11, Visger played Pop Warner football for the West Stockton Bear Cubs. At age 13, during his third year of Pop Warner, he was hospitalized after knocking himself out in a Bull- In- The- Ring drill. He played defensive tackle at A.A. Stagg High in Stockton, CA where they won two championships.
Visger playing when he was younger
George Visger attend the University of Colorado in 1976-1979 on a football scholarship. Visger was a three-year starter earning honorable mention All Big Eight and The Regiment Award in 1979.
In 1980, George was selected by the New York Jets in the 6th round of the NFL draft, playing with the San Francisco 49ers in 1980 and 1981. George then sustained a major concussion (traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions) in the first quarter of the Dallas game in 1980, yet continued to play the entire game by clearing his head with smelling salts each time he came off the field.
George Visger playing for San Fransisco
During the following 1981 Super Bowl, several weeks later he began experiencing major head aches, loss of hearing with the beat of his heart, balls of light in front of each eye and projectile vomiting each night. The 49ers' team doctor diagnosed him with a brain hemorrhage in the locker room and told him to drive to the Stanford Hospital that afternoon.
The neurologist at the Stanford Hospital took one look at him, did a CT scan, and then rushed him into emergency brain surgery. He developed hydrocephalus from the concussion and underwent emergency VP shunt brain surgery.
This is George Visger's scar, and the needle kit to drain his brain.
For 14 days he was in intensive care. He was informed then by the trainer that he could play if I wore a special made helmet. When he returned to the team, he worked out the rest of the season, and underwent 2 more emergency brain surgeries, 10 hours apart, just four months after they won Super Bowl XVI. During the 3rd surgery he was give last rites... and the hospital bills.
On the bottom left, the picture is a normal human brain. Not the bottom right, the picture is George Visger's brain.
During his recovery, Visger says, the same neurosurgeon told him that perhaps a special helmet could be built that would protect his shunt and allow him to keep banging heads. Visger missed the rest of the 1981 season and next spring his shunt failed him. Visger ended up in a coma and had two more emergency shunt- repairing surges that took place less than 24 hours apart. He then left the NFL.
Visger then worked for his brother's construction business and would frame windows backward and walls upside down. He would then blow up on his mother and sisters for no reason. To cope with his faltering memory, Visger began writing things down on bright yellow Rite in the Rain waterproof notebooks- which he still carries today in his back pocket.
A picture of his notebooks.
Visger now swallows more than 30 pills every day. However, most of them are supplements. He has seizure medications, mood disorder pills, and dementia pills. He also has been receiving regular hyperbaric oxygen treatments.
In 2010, George Visger founded The Visger Group, a traumatic brain injury consulting organization witht he goal of raising the awareness of TBI in variety of venues, including football, injured military veterans, and pediatric groups. He has present at numerous brain injury recovery conferences throughout the country and coordinates with hospital TBI recovery programs.
Visger has been featured on NPR, CNN, CBS Evening News, ESPN Outside The Lines, Slate Magazine and many more. He consults directly with Dr. Rich Ellenbogen of the NFL Head, Neck, and Spine Injury on rule changes to reduce TBI in football
George Visger speaking about his story.