Jim McMahon recently ran into some ex-teammates from the 1986 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, and the conversation went something like this: "How are you feeling? Are you forgetting stuff like me?"
"And these guys are. All of them," McMahon said Thursday. "That's just the way it was back then: 'You got a little ding in the head? So what? Go back in.' But now they're realizing that if you go back in, you're putting your life in your own hands."
The former quarterback said he feels in a daze sometimes and occasionally can't remember why he walked into a room. There were times he played in games with the Bears but couldn't remember what happened until he watched film a day later.
McMahon participated in a news conference held Thursday by the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), which he is helping to promote concussion education. SLI is hoping cities — including Super Bowl site Dallas — will pass ordinances mandating strict concussion response and management for youth sports.
The group's co-founder, Chris Nowinski, said 11 states have passed such legislation, but other states "are dragging their feet." That's why SLI is now seeking to get such laws at the city level; one was passed last month in Chicago.
"The SLI wants to see this model spread across the country because, frankly, we don't really have the time to wait for certain state legislatures to decide if this is a priority," Nowinski said. "If cities want to get this going, they can, and Chicago proved this works."
SLI is hosting concussion clinics in Dallas on Thursday, and at the University of Texas on Saturday.
McMahon pledged to donate his brain for research at Boston University. He said he played through at least five concussions when he was in the NFL, which has been changing the way teams handle brain injuries and trying to change the culture in the league.
"You don't pay attention to it, and all of a sudden, now you're walking around in a daze sometimes," McMahon said. "It doesn't take a huge hit to really screw your head up. The repetitive stuff that linemen and linebackers do every day; these are the guys that are really going to be hurting."