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Former Bomber suffered degenerative brain disease: doctors

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers players reacted Tuesday with a mixture of sympathy and resignation to the news that former Bombers nose tackle Doug MacIver had the same degenerative brain disease that’s been found in other late football players when he died of a heart attack earlier this year.

"It’s scary. A lot of the new results coming out haven’t been very promising," Bombers safety Ian Logan said Tuesday afternoon following practice at Canad Inns Stadium.

"I can’t say I’ve noticed any real effects yet. I haven’t suffered any concussions that have been diagnosed. But at the same time, it’s such a violent sport, you have to wonder what the long-term damage is from this.

"It will be interesting to see how long football lasts as a sport if these results keep coming back. But at the same time this is what I do as a profession. I’ve got to ride it until it’s done, for now."

The Globe and Mail’s Allan Maki reported in Tuesday’s edition that doctors at Boston University who had dissected MacIver’s brain found he was suffering from "moderately advanced" chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died Jan. 26. Doctors informed the MacIver family of their findings late last week.

MacIver, who was 58 when he died, played nine CFL seasons, three of them in Winnipeg -- including in a Grey Cup winning season in 1984. CTE is believed to be caused by brain trauma.

Doctors at Boston University have examined the brains of 19 late NFL players and discovered CTE in 18 of them. That’s a sobering statistic, but Bombers offensive lineman Glenn January says it also needs to be put into context.

"There’s a lot of other factors you have to consider when you break down the players from the 70’s and 80’s to the players of this day and age. Lifestyles are different, there’s less head to head contact and also back in the day they were taking some things that might not have been good for them, especially in that O-line and D-line position.

"I think you know what I’m talking about. And I’m not saying (MacIver) did that, but it’s just a general statement that they didn’t really know how detrimental certain supplements and performance enhancing things could be to the body. So yeah, it is something that you have to worry about, but at the same time we’re straw dogs and we have to realize that we have to enjoy our time on top while it’s here. You can’t worry too much about too far down the road. Because reality’s going to set in pretty quick for all of us here. You have to enjoy your moment in the sun and make the most of it. "

Bryant Turner, who plays MacIver’s old position for the 2012 Bombers, said he is trying to take better care of himself off the field, including a healthier diet and even yoga.

"The older I’m getting, the more I’m starting to focus on the way I will be living after football," said Turner, who says he’s already suffering from high blood pressure.

But Turner said while he is concerned about all the brain studies of former players, he feels he’d do more harm than good if he allowed it to alter the way he plays on the field.

"I try not to think about it, which I think is like a lot of football players. Because if you worry about something, that’s when you get hurt. If you worry about getting hurt, you go out and play timid. That’s when it’s bound to happen. I really don’t use my head too much. I try to use my hands mostly. But when you use your hands so much, your shoulders starting hurting."

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