A New Baby Brings Excitement, But Are Sports In Their Future?

A new chapter in life always brings a certain amount of excitement and apprehension.

In September, my wife Melissa and I found out we were pregnant with our first child. It’s something we’ve been talking about since we first started dating, the thought of having kids and creating our own nuclear family.

When the pregnancy test turned up positive, we were full of joy, although still astonished that we were actually getting a little one to call our own.

We announced it to the social media world on December 10, 2017, the same day my dad passed away from cancer the year before. It was a bittersweet announcement, knowing my dad would’ve so loved our baby and getting the opportunity to spend time with his grandchildren.

As some of you know, my dad Rick Klassen was a professional football player for 10 years. He played in the Canadian Football League at a position, on the defensive line, that is not friendly to one’s brain. His brain took the biggest beating out of his whole body, and following his passing in 2016 that very brain was analyzed and detected with Stage II chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

CTE is a condition my dad knew he had and the results were not entirely surprising to our family.

I grew up idolizing his football career and what he accomplished. Grey Cup champion. Member of the B.C. Lions 50th season All-Time Dream Team. Wall of Fame inductee. The list goes on.

The notoriety he received, both around the community and at football games we attended in my earlier years, was something I wanted. I saw how people admired him as a football player. It’s partly why I sought the limelight as a television reporter.

But the day my dad was diagosed with CTE and results hit the airwaves, it changed my perspective and how I view sports. While it’s still entertainment I enjoy, I can now put myself in the players’ shoes and somewhat understand the incredible risk in which they’re putting themselves, as well as the potential reprecussions they will face after retirement. I saw those reprecussions first-hand through my dad’s inability to control his emotions.

Furthermore, as much notoriety or fame as my soon-to-be-born child (boy or girl) may receive, it’s not worth the risks associated with contact sports. My wife Melissa and I have talked extensively about how we’re going to handle our children in sport, and at this point our kids won’t be playing football. After seeing what my dad and our family went through, it’s not happening. I’m stopping the cycle.

Hockey, on the other hand, is a whole other story. As a Canadian I grew up playing hockey, so that’s still in play. Then again, it’s a violent sport with heavy contact to the head at times. It will be a situation, if our kids decide to lace up the skates, where we monitor them. Once they get to the age where they’re hitting, we’ll just need to sit them out if we feel their brain’s been rattled.

That approach to sports, where parents aren’t afraid to sit their kids out for long periods of time until their brains heal, is something parents of all athletes should implement, especially those who are determined to send their kids to the big league. Parents should be educated on brain injuries and the true risks involved. My goal is to have all parents whose kids are involved in contact sports be required to take a course on concussions, the signs and symptoms, and when to know to sit their kids out. A concussion is like any injury and needs to be addressed.

For parents or athletes striving to play professionally, especially in a contact sport, remember that after retirement, even if an athlete is in their mid-30s, they still have 50 or more years of life to live. From what we know about CTE, athletes may not fully feel the affects during or shortly after their playing days. But as they age, it will get progressively worse and do serious damage, both to the individual’s brain as well as family and friends at large.

I don’t want that for my children and I am going to do everything in my power to protect them, whether that’s in sports or elsewhere.

Written by Chad Klassen

Top CTE Media Stories From 2017

While there hundreds of media stories in 2017 about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy(CTE), these ten stories were the most important stories of the year.

Pro athletes make up most of the headlines over the last decade, but this year begins the long over due shift from professionals, to the real story of the millions of children who have played only for fun.

The brain damage exposure to children over the last 4 decades covered by the football industry including helmet manufacturers, regulators and governing bodies had left young men as young as 18, dead with CTE.

10. Reporter’s Notebook: Behind the Scenes Before Super Bowl

9. Concussions, CTE & Acts of Violence

8. Expert: Football Helmets May Be a Safety Risk for Young Players

7. Not Just an NFL Problem: Brain Damage & High School Football

6. Football and CTE: The dilemma for parents

5. Fotball’s Concussion Crisis Is Killing Former High School Players, Too

Pictured: Dr. Michael King

4. Youth Football Decline

3. Concussion Doctor Says Youth Football is Child Abuse

Pictured: Dr. Bennet Omalu, Cindy Feasel (Author, After the Cheering Stops)

2. Grief Overshadows the Super Bowl

Pictured: Leah Goodwin former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, Debbie Pyka CTE Mom, Nicki Langston CTE Mom, Tiffani Bright, Kimberly Archie CTE Mom, Mary Seau, Jo Cornell CTE Mom, Ben Langston

1. California Class Action Lawsuit Against Pop Warner

Pictured: Tiffani Bright(sister), Paul Bright Jr., and Kimberly Archie(mother)

Pictured: Tyler Cornell, Jo Cornell

American capitalism is controlled by litigation and insurance. Sports are no exception, with that in mind, it’s crystal clear that litigation is the vehicle of change to protect child athletes.

There is no greater force than a mother protecting her children. The NFL, a true Goliath of capitalism has met their match with the ultimate David, moms on a mission.

Written by Kimberly Archie

Tackling Grief Chronicles: When Grief Tries to Tackle Me I Just Remember Why We Started

The holidays are always tough for those of us who have lost loved ones too soon. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, I find myself tearing up without notice, or a specific incidence. In the back of my mind constantly is how will I spend another year without my son Paul? Sleep doesn’t come easy, it’s hard to go to sleep or even stay asleep. The pressure of what to do for the holidays, who to spend it with and how will I get through all of those days; Thanksgiving, shopping for gifts, sending out holiday cards (okay, I was never very good at this task 😆), Christmas work parties, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Years?

I really just want to work, help people, just skip it all and pretend  tomorrow is January 2, 2018.

Life doesn’t work that way.

I also know I am not alone. While not everyone has lost their only son, or share all of the variables that sew into my quilt of grief, people who have lived a few years or more, have difficulties and situations that make up their own grief quilt. And if I have learned anything in the 3 plus years since Paul died, you can’t compare your grief to anyone else’s. It’s not a game. There is no score. There is no winner. No one gets the “my grief is bigger than yours” award. If a situation has occurred in one’s life that weighs on them and it’s categorized by them as grief, than it is what it is.

For my brain injury survivor friends who grieve who they once were, their grief counts too. It matters. It matters as much as my grief for my son’s death does. It all counts.

As a traumatic brain injury survivor, and once a caregiver to my daughter, Janaye, when she had Stage IV cancer, I learned a few life lessons during the peaks and valleys of those experiences that I carry over to face Paul’s untimely death.

Live life to the fullest. Just do it, do it and do it and do it, until the job is done.

Some days, like today I need a little help living my life to the fullest. A shot in the arm, a pick me up as they say.

So I pulled out one of my old tools in my live life to the fullest toolbox, that I call the, “why did you start in the first place?”

I spent an hour or so thinking about how ten years ago come January 2, 2018 my daughter Tiffani and I sat at our kitchen table and made a conscious choice to take on the Goliath of all Goliath’s; the sport industry. I let it just soak in how we got started, why we chose to do it, what our first goals were and what motivated us to take such a huge leap of faith.

I vividly remembered the words Tiffani said as a young woman with her whole life ahead of her, sitting across our kitchen table in a small apartment in a Southern California city just outside of Los Angeles at the wise, old age of 19. She said, “mom, we were lucky. My injuries weren’t catastrophic like other kids we have met. Janaye lived unlike other families we have met. Those families who have lost their kids on the playing field or have to care for them around the clock, they’re exhausted. We can do it for them. We have energy to do it and we should.”

So we did.

Tiffani and worked around the clock building a website, designing marketing materials, reaching out to people, logging injuries and talking to the media. In a few short weeks, we launched the National Cheer Safety Foundation, and the rest is history as they say.

Looking back I can not believe what we did, and what we continue to do. The goals and landmark achievements are too many to list but in honor of remembering why we started, as well as our ten year anniversary being around the corner. Here is a list of the “Top Ten Things” we have accomplished since we started at the kitchen table in 2008, that helped me remember why we started.

  1. The recent federal court ruling in Archie et al v. Pop Warner.
  2. The settlement in 2011 of a lawsuit for a young, brain injured, cheerleader named Lizzie Nicks with one the of the best trial lawyers in California, Gary Dordick. This breakthrough legal research has been used over and over again in dozens of lawsuits for injured athletes all across the country.
  3. Helping State lawmaker Lorena Gonzalez to make cheerleading a Title IX sport in California.
  4. Writing the first catastrophic emergency plan for youth sports in 2008 and making available for free on the internet.
  5. Participating in the inaugural year of Acrobatics & Tumbling including being an official for meets, as well as seeing USA Gymnastics become their governing body.
  6. Finding the 1969 research by the National Academies of Science on football injuries while working on the NFL brain injury case on behalf of former NFL players for the well known law firm Girardi | Keese, made famous in the Erin Brockovich movie. The most important single piece of evidence in landmark case.
  7. Being named an official research partner of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injuries Research at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2008, along with our cheerleading injuries being added to their database setting off a media blitz from People magazine to the Washington Post.
  8. Developed the legal strategies used to mediate the landmark US Soccer case settlement to remove headers for athletes 10 and under, as well as count headers for athletes 11-13.
  9. Orchestrating more than 20,000 hours of hundreds of volunteers and experts over ten years to do pro-bono work for athletes from kids to the pros.
  10. Launching the awareness campaign “Faces of CTE” with dozens of sport families who lost loved ones too soon to the mind robbing disease of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.


So even staring at another difficult holiday season, when I look at this list and remember why we started. I can conquer another year without Paul because we have a lot of work to do still to make a difference in the world, and leave a family legacy in law and sports, that our beloved Paul will forever be the face of.

–Kimberly Archie

Paul Bright Jr.: 3 Years Later We Still Celebrate His Life

Three years ago today I gave the eulogy for my only son Paul Wayne Bright Jr., at his “Celebration of Life” in front of more than 300 people who gathered with his family to share who he was, and what he meant to them. At that time we didn’t know he had CTE from youth football. We wouldn’t receive this news until April the following year.

When I went to the podium to speak, I looked up at the crowd. I saw my daughters who looked confident in my ability to pull it off, and his brothers, and his dad and other mom Christy. The rest of the room had a look of horror and surprise on so many of the faces I went off outline of what I had rehearsed to address the room’s fear of his mom giving his eulogy.

I looked as many of them in the eye as I could and I proudly proclaimed, “I know what many of you are thinking. How can his mom get up and speak today? How will she do it without falling apart?”

I continued to explain to them that from early after his death I knew I wanted to give the eulogy. I felt it was my greatest honor to plan his service and share who he was. I wanted when people left that day to know him better than before, to leave feeling uplifted and not as sad as when they arrived.

With my words we were giving permission to laugh and feel joy even though he was gone in the physical. We could truly celebrate him because after that day I explained we would have many days to cry and mourn his loss, but today we needed to heal. To feel his presence, feel his love and to feel us loving him.

With the help of a PowerPoint titled, “Giving” I shared his two families, him as a baby, moments that stood out in my mind and what a caring and kind man he had become. I didn’t write a speech, I spoke from my heart on the spot. I didn’t really think you could write these moments anyway. For me, I wanted it to be real and authentic and in the moment. It was all of that and more.

His sister Tiffani was the MC, his dad did the home slide show of photos. We had to have two. One for generic memories and a second just for sports. Yes, his childhood was a life full of sports, especially football.

One of the owners the company he worked for named Liz, told stories of Paul on the job. His service wouldn’t have been complete without this part. His work had become his life. Being a good employee and assistant chef was his main focus. He had found his calling in life. At 24 that is an amazing gift and many leave this Earth never knowing this. We were so grateful he had.

His roommate spoke too and even one of his cousins got up last minute to share, mentioning he was inspired after the eulogy to feel more happiness that day remembering who Paul was.

It was a true day of celebration, giving, loss and healing. It was the first big step in a lifetime we will spend missing him and honoring his memory. I realized as the day was winding down there will need to be many more opportunities to heal to survive his loss. My mind begin to think of ways how.

Three years later one of those magical ideas to help people grieving heal has come to fruition with our “Tackling Grief” Monthly call in work shop with grief expert Marcia Jenkins.

Grief doesn’t end after the services or burial is over. It’s a life time process. Some days are better than others, but the loss is felt every day. This workshop helps me connect with others like me in an easy format of just calling in and entering a pass code. It’s been life changing.

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or have suffered an injury and grieving who you once were, please join us the first Monday of each month at 5:00 pm PST for an hour of love and healing in a safe space.

Living with CTE

Living with an addict isn’t easy.  The facts are in on that!  All you have to do is search the internet to find that most couples don’t survive addiction.  It destroys families, and rips and tears all logic away.

The hardest part of all of this for me is that Grant lived his most of his life and our entire marriage without any idea what the root problem was with his health.  He went in and out of rehab facilities over the years, and could never get sober.

Sadly, it wasn’t until after his death, and the autopsy report by Dr. Ann McKee at the Boston University, before it all started making sense to me.

Grant had Stage III CTE.

As I researched CTE symptoms, I realized Grant had every single one of them. I kept thinking about all the years of our marriage, and all the questions I’d had without answers.  I had continued to believe he would come back to me.  Now I understood why he couldn’t ever return. So much sadness, misunderstandings and grief…..

On July 15, 2012 Grant Feasel died and my world changed forever. I never planned on being married to anyone but him.

Grant Feasel; football;

Grant had sacrificed himself.  He died a shell of a man.  He had been a huge offensive center in NFL for so many years.  He slowly changed, like the sands of the seashore, until he wasn’t anything like the Renaissance man I had married in 1983.  A man who loved poetry and played the guitar and who had options.

He was a 4.0 GPA Biology PreMed major.  He was accepted into every Dental and Medical School in the state of Texas. He wanted a family, and he told me I was the love of his life.  I loved Grant Feasel.

All our plans and dreams were taken away by a lifetime of addiction.  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy took the man I loved away from me, and my life will never by the same.

I’m begging parents to look at the evidence of all high impact sports to the brain.  Nothing is worth the pain and heartache that we went through.  Grant lived a life of pain.  He became an addict trying to stop the pain.  The longer an athlete plays a head banging sport the more likely it is for them to have a lifetime of health issues.  There is no scholarship or any amount of money that can replace a human life.

America’s favorite game actually kills people.

By: Cyndy Feasel

The Head Is In The Game

Five years have gone by since we lost our Joseph to suicide and CTE. Seems like yesterday when I watched him walk out the door, the last time I saw him alive. Time does not heal the wounds, every day that passes knowing he is never coming back is more painful. At times the grief is unbearable, I know I have to cope with the reality he will never walk through the door again.

Each year for many families this is becoming a reality also. Each year knowing the children are running onto the football field, or entering a boxing ring makes me nauseated knowing they are being exposed to brain damage which substantially increases their risk of early onset of a neurological disease. Each year, parents and coaches are brainwashed with the “safer than ever” hype promoted by the sport industry to use children for their feeder system for their own benefit. The benefits pay off for the promoters, yet in the end those in the feeder system are the ones who suffer.

I never knew what CTE was until my son died, had I known about this brain disease, which has been swept under the rug for many years, I would have never let my three sons play tackle football. When will parents and coaches realize that repetitive hits in heavy, plastic, helmets not made for kids will cause brain damage?

The answer is, when it’s too late.

Joseph Chernach

There is no taking the head out of the game. The head is in the game, both mentally and physically, and cannot be removed. This we learned too late, and the regrets I have weigh on my mind daily, the suffering will continue for my family forever. Knowing my son’s brain was being destroyed by a disease we never suspected, or were even warned that it existed, is devastating and we have to live with these thoughts forever.

As the years pass we will read of many more CTE victims as millions of children have been exposed to brain damage from repetitive hits.  Do the benefits really outweigh the risk? Many injuries and deaths can be prevented by eliminating tackling, headers, checking, sparing and boxing.  #saveyourbrain

By: Debbie Pyka

When the Cheering Stops

  • By: Cyndy Feasel
    Former wife of Grant Feasel (06/28/60 – 07/15/12)

    “If I’d only known that what I loved the most would end up killing me and taking away everything I loved, I would have never done it.”

    These were among the last words spoken to Cyndy Feasel by her late husband, Grant Feasel. He was talking about playing professional football.

    Unless you’re a longtime Seattle Seahawks fan of a certain age, you’ve never heard Grant Feasel, who was the starting center and long snapper for the Seahawks from 1987 to 1992 after starting his pro football career with the old Baltimore Colts in 1983. While playing 117 games in the National Football League, Grant was just another anonymous offensive lineman who toiled in the trenches, banging up his battered body with every snap of the ball. Those jarring collisions with powerful nose guards took their toll on Grant in physical, mental, and spiritual ways, which Cyndy describes in her new book, After the Cheering Stops.

    “After Grant retired from the NFL, he started drinking to dull the pain that began in his brain—a brain muddled by a history of repetitive trauma and symptomatic concussions,” Cyndy said. “Neither of us knew at the time that he was slowly drinking himself to death—a lingering process that took nearly twenty years. I can assure you that there was collateral damage: our marriage was destroyed, our three children were greatly impacted, and I was left financially reeling. All because my husband played a violent game that entertains tens of millions of football fans every Sunday.”

    Life did not end well for Grant. He died at the age of 52 in 2012—much too young. Cyndy watched the man of her dreams die every day in front of her eyes. Today, she faces a bleak future with deep emotional scars that will likely keep her in therapy for the rest of her life.

    “Although Grant missed his real gifts and destiny in this world, I believe he’d be cheering me on to share his story as a precautionary tale of what can happen when you play a sport you love but has inherit risks that wreak tremendous physical damage,” Cyndy said.

    As an elementary and middle school art teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, Cyndy is already seeing the effects of sport-related concussions on the children her classroom. Since Grant’s death, Cyndy has made it her mission to educate parents, athletes, and their families about the dangers of contact sports and the impact to everyone around them.

    After the Cheering Stops is her first book. She is available for media interviews. Contact her through her website a www.cyndyfeasel.com.