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Watch and Listen: Bernie Kosar, Before and After Brain-Injury Treatment

Matt Sullivan / Getty

A story in the current issue of The New Republic focuses on the controversial doctors who have embraced an alternative-medicine approach to the treatment of football brain injuries. And no ex-player is as associated with the trend as former Cleveland Brown Bernie Kosar, who claimed that a Florida doctor's holistic techniques had cured him of chronic traumatic encephalopathy—claims the mainstream medical community rejects.

All the same, it's undoubtable that football was rough on Kosar, long known as one of the sport's brainiacs. Last December he made a rambling, incoherent radio appearance—and a month later proclaimed that he was cured. Clips of him speaking over the years demonstrate that his trajectory is not quite so clear.

In 1984, Kosar was an NFL-bound college star who led the University of Miami to a one-point last-minute Orange Bowl victory. In his postgame interview he seems lucid and young:

Almost two decades later, in April 2012, Kosar seems older, slower, a little less vigorous. But he sets off no alarms. He talks with a reporter about his rough recent years; he talks about recovery: 

But later that year he made some supremely uncomfortable comments on Cleveland's sports talk show "Hooligans." He sounds confused and disoriented—nothing like the man onscreen a few months back. "Really, I mean really," he says, "Where are you?" The dumbfounded host struggles to get him off the line:

Within weeks, Kosar held a press conference to announce his suspected condition—and to praise Dr. Rick Sponaugle's treatments for the disease. Again, he seems healed, certainly much improved from his radio disaster:

In the time since, though, his signs of decline have returned, though not quite so strongly as before. Recently, for instance, he made some unflattering and unfiltered comments about the St. Louis Rams. He doesn't sound quite right—but he's by no means incoherent. You be the judge: