Joe DeLamielleure began worrying about his mind when Mike Webster died. “Me and Mike were very similar,” DeLamielleure says.
Both were Hall of Fame linemen known for never skipping a snap and rarely missing a Pro Bowl through the 1970s.
But in retirement, their paths diverged. Webster suffered from depression and lived out of his truck before dying of a heart attack at age 50 in 2002.
He would be the first former NFL player diagnosed with CTE.
DeLamielleure’s peers from that era would keep dying over the next decade, often by their own hands. Terry Long.
Ray Easterling. Dave Duerson. Each annual trip to Canton for DeLamielleure included disheartening news about another former great.
It was only natural for Joe to wonder if, one year soon, he would be that disheartening news.
After all, he had been dealing with sleepless nights, bouts of depression, a shrinking attention span–and, in 2013, news that he likely had Stage 3 CTE, about the worst ever seen in a live brain. Joe and his wife, Gerri, appreciated having that information, but it didn’t resolve the big question every former player faces today: One of these days, will I fall apart?
That’s where Clarence Carlos comes in. In 2013, the former West Virginia football player who had professional experience with both video games and a tool that tested for brain trauma began creating a “thermometer for the brain.”
Now, his company RC21X offers online mental exercises, adapted from long-used neuropsychological assessments.
The seemingly simple 5-15 minute tests of visual recall, auditory memory, or dexterity, offered in easy-to-play modules and combined with real-time and long-term tracking data, allow users to “know what’s going on upstairs,” Carlos says.