Former New England Patriots linebacker and three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi was taken to the hospital Thursday after suffering a transient ischemic attack, also known as a “ministroke,” his family said in a statement.
“He recognized his warning signs immediately: arm weakness, face drooping and speech difficulties. Tedy is recovering well,” the statement said. “Tedy and his family thank you for your ongoing encouragement, and kindly ask for privacy at this time.”
A TIA differs from a “regular” stroke in that, as the word “transient” implies, it is self-clearing and not capable of causing permanent damage.
“TIAs typically happen because a blood clot gets lodged in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. Without regular blood flow, your brain is starved for oxygen and can’t work like it normally does,” WebMD notes.
“That’s why you get symptoms like muscle weakness or slurred speech. It’d be like having a clogged fuel line in your car. Your engine can’t run if it’s not getting gas.”
Bruschi suffered a far more serious stroke in 2005, just days after winning Super Bowl XXXIX for his third championship in four years.
At the time, the then-31-year-old was diagnosed with patent foramen ovale, a condition that created a small hole in his heart.
“A blood clot had formed in my body, and it found a sort of a shortcut through my heart defect to my brain,” Bruschi told Men’s Health in 2014.
“That caused an ischemic stroke, which is a blockage of blood to the brain. By the time I got to the hospital, it was too late to prevent or reverse the damage. But had I recognized the warning signs within a window — usually 3 to 4 hours — I could have taken certain medications to reverse or stop the effects of the stroke.”
“It’s pretty shocking when a doctor shows you a scan of your head, and you can see the scars where oxygen was deprived and you lost some brain matter,” he added. “That was the start of the process of me finding out I would never be the same again.”
This time, Bruschi recognized the signs.
Remarkably, Bruschi played four more years of professional football at a high level after suffering that first stroke.
“I had 366 tackles in the NFL as a stroke survivor,” Bruschi, who retired following the 2008 season, told Men’s Health. “And I’m very proud of that.”
In addition to working as an analyst for ESPN, Bruschi has devoted his post-football life to raising awareness and funds for the American Stroke Association.
He’s formed a running club, “Tedy’s Team,” that had a presence at the Boston Marathon in April.
Wishing the best of luck to our INCREDIBLE team of runners today. We are already so proud of you and can’t wait to see you cross that finish line in a few hours!! ???? ☘️??♂️??♀️ #WeSurviveWeRun #Boston2019 pic.twitter.com/8ZTaf1MWGB
— Tedy’s Team (@TedysTeam) April 15, 2019
“Tedy has the complete support of ESPN and we wish him a speedy recovery,” ESPN said in a statement.
In the meantime, Bruschi just demonstrated to everyone why knowing the signs of a stroke can make all the difference in the world.
If this story needed a silver lining, raising awareness in a clear public way will do.
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