The fighter: Former BYU, NFL quarterback Jim McMahon aims to win the toughest challenge of his life

Published: Saturday, Oct. 5 2013 5:35 p.m. MDT

"Yeah, I did," McMahon said of his own suicidal thoughts. "Heck, it hurt so bad I'm like, 'Hey, I don't want to keep doing this every day.' ... You don't know what to do when your brain starts messing with you. And if they're getting the same kind of pain that I was having, I understand why these guys do that."

"There are no knives, no guns, no nothing in the house," Navon said.

Thankfully, McMahon's innovative treatment is giving them hope for the future.

"It can't cure the dementia," Navon said, "but it can help with all the symptoms that he was having, which were really bad, and hopefully slow down the progression of the dementia.

"I've seen huge improvement in him. After Dr. Rosa did that treatment on Mac, I looked at Jim and he looked at me, and all of a sudden, crazy as it may sound, he had color his face, his eyes looked clearer and Dr. (Raymond) Damadian (who invented the MRI) said he could tell an immediate difference in his speech. Mac said he felt like a toilet bowl had been flushed in his head and everything came out.

"It's definitely made a huge difference," she said. "He's not so ornery. His mood swings were crazy; he was high and he was low. ... We went back and Dr. Damadian did the same exact scans again and he thinks all that fluid that was in his brain is now flowing up and back, up and back the way it should in all of us."

"I thought she was the cause of most of the headaches," McMahon said sarcastically of Navon, admitting that, upon further review, maybe she was responsible for "only about half of them."

Navon has noticed some recent signs, though, that the time has come for McMahon to receive more treatment. He has sent some of his former teammates to the doctors who treated him and he, too, admits that things are started to get "a little fuzzy" for him again.

"I mean, I saw a change in Mac probably like three or four months ago," she said. "He definitely needs to go back. One of the first signs is a change in moods, which he has. He gets irritated easily, cursing, yelling for no reason.

"So I know now and I see him rubbing his head too much. I know his memory is slipping, and he needs to go back."

Settling with the NFL

McMahon was part of a lawsuit that was filed against the NFL in 2011, seeking compensation for former players who had suffered concussion-related brain damage, which they accused the league of concealing, misdiagnosing or flat-out ignoring.

NFL teams used to rush concussed players back on the field by simply holding a couple of fingers in front of their face and asking them how many they could see, or waiving a finger back and forth and making sure they could follow it. Back in the day, smelling salts were used to clear a player's foggy head before sending him back into a game.

Those days are long gone now, and the NFL settled the lawsuit in August when it agreed to pay a tentative sum of $765 million, which will be divided among the more than 4,500 players who have sustained irreversible brain damage.

McMahon will receive a portion of that settlement — how much, he has no idea yet — and is just glad that the league decided to do the right thing after decades of seemingly looking the other way when it came to players' injuries.

"I think it's a victory for the guys that are hurting bad right now, because these guys are in desperate need of help, either financially or paying doctor bills, stuff like that," he said.

"It's just a shame that some of these guys that have built this brand over the years are now, you know, they're destitute. They've got nowhere to go and they don't know who to trust. And they don't remember half the people in their lives.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere