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My name is Keana McMahon and I was married to former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle, Justin Strzelczyk. He was diagnosed with CTE post-mortem in 2007 by Dr. Bennet Omalu. Our story was featured in the film Concussion, and while many of you are dealing with this issue today, it has been 19 years since I started dealing with Justin’s mood swings. He has been gone for almost 13 years now, and I have learned so much. I have healed, forgiven, moved on and fought many battles that he left behind.
Most recently I have teamed up with Sisters In Sports and an organization called StopCTE.org. These two organizations take priority in my fight to call attention to CTE and the things we have gone through.
This March 21st-23rd, I will head to Washington D.C. for the second year in a row to meet with and talk to Congressmen about the battle that so many encounter. The Congressional Brain Injury Task Force (CBITF) is chaired by Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ) and Congressman Thomas Rooney (FL) in Washington D.C..
I will be there with women who have lost their sons to CTE. As it was last year, I was the only NFL wife there, though we did have a few former NFL players along with us to tell their story, which was so brave of these men!
We make appointments to meet with the members of Congress who help with this committee and we tell them our personal stories. We spend one day at a “ballroom type” area in one of the Congressional buildings. We set up our table with brochures about StopCTE.org and network with others there who have a connection to TBI. Some examples of others with tables there are Pink Concussions, Center for Disease Control, US Military, rehab facilities specializing in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and many more. Last year they even displayed artwork that was created by TBI patients. Some really amazing works of art were on display.
Many of the Congressmen walk through during the day talking to us and listening to our concerns. Afterward, we head to a reception, mingling again with Congressmen and Representatives.
Last year when I was there, Congressman Rooney, who I mentioned above, came to my table. He was taken by surprise to see me holding a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet in my arms. His grandfather was Art Rooney, the man who founded the Steelers organization. While his dad gave up his ownership rights to the team years ago, due to his horse racing facilities in Florida conflicting with NFL rules, this is still his family.
I introduced myself, he told me that he was a ball boy for training camp when Justin played and that he was very fond of him. He expressed his sadness for my loss, asked about my kids and spoke to me about why I was there. I told him that he shouldn’t be surprised that I was a bit skeptical about why he, someone with such close ties to the Rooney family, would be the head of a committee dealing with TBI when football is obviously the cause of CTE. I’ll never forget what he said to me, “If we don’t do something about this now football isn’t going to be around in 20 years.” What he said made me think that the owners get it, even if they won’t admit it.
For my fellow Sisters dealing witht the aftermath of concussions or TBI, I am sharing this with you today to urge you to tell your story. No matter what sport your man has played you need to speak up. I am asking that you sit down, write your story, and mail it to the Congressmen that chair and work with the CBITF. These stories are cataloged and saved by their staff. After meeting with one of the women I was with last year, Karen Zegal, Congressmen Tim Murphy(PA) called upon her to testify in front of congress about her son and his CTE. They will continue to hold the NFL accountable but they need to hear from all of us! They are not done with them, but things move slow in this kind of situation, and we have to be patient, yet persistent. The NCAA is about to have a class action lawsuit brought forth later this year and CTE/TBI will be getting a lot more attention.
Youth football is under scrutiny, the more you speak up, the more we will be heard. We will help save men and children that deal with this issue by letting our voice be strong and loud.
You may be thinking, the settlement is done what does it matter? What matters is that the public needs to know more, the men that play today need to know more, when these men go back to the table for another CBA they need to ask for LIFETIME HEALTHCARE!
Parents need to hear our stories so that they can make the right choices for their children. Women that live with the same kind of issues need to come forward. The letter that you send may be read by someone who can help make a difference in the future! If you’ve had articles, books, news stories, documentaries made about you or a loved one include that info, the more the better!
You maybe called upon to tell your story, like Karen Zegal was, maybe you want to remain anonymous and that’s okay but tell them what you have gone through. Let them know how many of us are out here!
The most important people that need to hear from you are Congressman Rooney and Congressman Pascrell. Then if you want to make 112 copies of that letter and send one to every person on that committee, I think that would be a very impactful statement. Keep in mind that, unfortunately, Congressmen can only receive email from people that live in their district. So, for any outside of your district, snail mail will have to do.
You can read more about the CBITF by clicking on a couple of links I added below. I have also created a document with all of the names and addresses of the Congressmen and Congresswomen who are on the CBITF. Email me at KeanaStrzelczykCTE@gmail.com or HelloSis@sis.life to get a copy.
Next year if you want to come, please get in touch with me. If you have or work with a charity that is involved in TBI and want to book a table, we will see what we can do. My contact information is in the paragraph above, and I will be sure to update you when I arrive back from my trip.
Thank you for considering joining me as we bring awareness to CTE!