The Rain People 1969 – Classic Coppola Film Addressed CTE 40 Years Before Anyone Knew About The Disease

Obscure, classic Francis Ford Coppola film addressed CTE in 1969. Yet the NFL claims no knowledge of permanent head trauma until the last decade.
Read a review of this obscure, classic film from IMDB:
the-rain-people-posterLong Island housewife Natalie Ravenna has just learned that she is pregnant. Natalie doesn’t know if she is well equipped to be a mother let alone a wife. Feeling trapped in her circumstances, she decides to run away to California to get as far away from her life as possible, although she, in a series of telephone calls back to her husband Vinny, is up front about what she believes she is feeling. This escape could be temporary, maybe permanent, she doesn’t really know. On her drive, she picks a young, handsome hitchhiker who she learns is Jimmy “Killer” Kilgannon, the nickname gained as a former star college football player. Her sole purpose in picking him up is to have a one-night stand, so that she can emotionally escape further from her life with Vinny. When she tries to drop him off at the home of one of his former girlfriends named Ellen Brook, Natalie further learns that Killer’s simple ways are because he is mentally disabled from a head injury sustained in a football game. The college paid him off to leave, Ellen has no interest in him in his mental state, and he has no family. Natalie herself becomes conflicted about helping him when she feels she can barely help herself. Among the many encounters Natalie has that affects her feelings about her life and about Killer, one with a Nebraska highway patrolman named Gordon provides her with the clearest picture, although it may come at a price.
Read Roger Ebert’s 1969 Review

Was CTE The Cause Of Alias Smith & Jones Actor Pete Duel’s Death

SJ93How prevalent is CTE among the general population? If a person has suffered a traumatic head injury or multiple mild head injuries at some point in their life, they may be as susceptible to CTE as ball players. A prominent case comes to mind, that of actor Pete Duel of Alias Smith And Jones fame who killed himself on December 31, 1971.

At the time it was thought that Duel was simply a victim of alcohol abuse and depression, but in reading his biography, it becomes apparent that Pete may have been suffering from CTE. The following excerpt is from Pete Duel: A Biography Kindle Edition by Paul Green

In the biting cold winter of 1958, Deuel plunged headfirst through a car windshield. Recalling the accident, Pamela said, “He had that accident during his Freshman year in college. He let someone else drive my parent’s station wagon. Two cars hit each other head on.

They didn’t have seat belts in those days and Peter’s head went through the windshield. He had a very serious gash on his head and almost bit off his tongue. It was horrible. They also did surgery on his face because he had a deep laceration on his cheek which required a couple of surgeries.

It was during his stay at the Y.M.C.A. that Deuel experienced what would prove to be a source of anxiety in his future life and career. His roommate witnessed Deuel undergoing going a grand mal seizure. “That’s when Peter called mother and Dad and said, `Something’s wrong,”‘ recalled Pamela. “That fear that he could have a seizure at any time and how to handle it, and the fact he didn’t want anyone to know, preyed on his mind. We weren’t going to tell anybody about this. Mother and Dad said that Peter never had a seizure until after the car accident in Penfield, and that often a head trauma will cause epilepsy. Peter hadn’t had seizures from birth, only after the accident.”

Pamela Deuel recalled yet another near-fatal accident involving her brother on the road to Watkins Glen, New York. “The motorcycle accident happened on a Sunday afternoon. When Peter drove out of the driveway on his motorcycle my mother looked at me and said, `I have a terrible feeling.’ He was going along the road when a car started to make a turn. Peter didn’t see him passing and swerved to avoid it. He was thrown from his motorcycle and landed head first onto a cement guard rail. His helmet saved his life.

Paul Green. Pete Duel: A Biography Kindle Edition.


Pete kept the seizures a secret from virtually everyone in Hollywood, rightfully afraid that if it were known, he might be unemployable. The seizures became progressively worse and more frequent.

In the fall of 1970, Pete had won a starring role in an offbeat Western TV series, Alias Smith And Jones, that was modeled on the hit movie, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Series television is notorious for its grueling work schedule that can easily involve 80 hour weeks. The progression of Pete’s health problems dovetailed with the success of Smith And Jones. As the severity of the seizures increased, it was becoming clear to Pete that his acting career was in danger. He began drinking to excess, which is a common denominator in people attempting to deal with CTE.

Early in the morning of December 31, 1971, Pete took his own life. You can find videos of his friends and costars that included Sally Field and Ben Murphy who have expressed their anger and mystification over Pete’s suicide. We all felt it. Pete was an amazingly talented young man who seemed to have the world at his feet and an incredible career ahead of him. But head trauma is an invisible disease and can take all that away, as it likely did to Pete Duel.

A grand mal seizure — also known as a generalized tonic-clonic seizure — features a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. It’s the type of seizure most people picture when they think about seizures in general. Grand mal seizure is caused by abnormal electrical activity throughout the brain.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Brain trauma can cause a build-up of an abnormal type of a protein called tau, which slowly kills brain cells. Once started, these changes in the brain appear to continue to progress even after exposure to brain trauma has ended. Possible symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and eventually progressive dementia. Symptoms can begin to appear months, years, or even decades after trauma has ended. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after death by brain tissue analysis.

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1972 – Joe Namath’s Last Great Season

To an entire generation the name Joe Namath conjures up an iconic image from an era of controversial figure among who he stood shoulder to shoulder. Where you loved him or hated him, Joe will be forever emblazoned in our memory as he trotted off the field, one arm raised in victory after guaranteeing and then delivering victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in January of 1969. But when I think of Joe Namath I remember the 1972 season in what proved to be his last the last time in which he would lead a team on a run at the playoffs before the inevitability of age and injury took their permanent toll. Having missed most of two seasons with major injuries in 1970 and 1971 Namath roared back with a year as unlikely as any in his career.

The Jets fortunes had faded considerably during the three years since their Super Bowl win with many members of their championship team having completed or settled into the twilight of their careers. The defense was a ragtag bunch that gave up points nearly as fast as Joe could put them on the board, but in a season that was famous for the Miami Dolphins going 14-0-0 on the strength of a conservative run oriented offense Namath defied the odds by playing the game his own way one last time in much the same fashion that Brett Favre would confound the pundits two decades later. With an arsenal of receivers that included Rich Caster at tight end, Don Maynard and Eddie Bell at wide receiver with Emerson Boozer and John Riggins in the backfield Joe had an offense loaded up to score and was to average an amazing 17.4 yards per completion. Imagine that in today’s game when quarterbacks are averaging 10 and 11 yards a completion.

With his gun slinging style Namath was unafraid to put the ball into the teeth of the era’s zone defenses that were allowed the notorious bump and run that virtually sanctioned the mugging of wide receivers. Still, Namath lit up the scoreboard leading the league in touchdowns and yardages with two four hundred yard passing games. Think about this, Brett Favre topped four hundred yards only once in his entire career in the modern era when defensive backs are limited in their coverage of wide receivers. Namath did it twice in one year, the year most famous for its conservative play calling and tough defenses.

After an easy season opening win against Buffalo the Jets came into Baltimore in week two of the season for a showdown with their division rival Colts. On a sunny afternoon in Memorial Stadium, Namath rocked the once mighty Baltimore secondary for 496 yards and 6 touchdown on only 15 completions in 28 attempts while Johnny Unitas battled back with 376 yards on 26 completions in 45 attempts for 2 touchdowns as the Jets pulled out a 44 to 34 scorcher. Rich Caster reeled in 6 passes for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns while teammate Eddie Bell caught 7 passes for another 197 yards and a touchdown. It was a game for the ages and one that not many people saw outside of New York and Baltimore and a few snippets of highlights on Monday Night Football the following evening. It’s a shame the videotape of that game doesn’t exist.

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