George Visger: From Pop Warner to the NFL to the Operating Room

Retired NFL player George Visger has a Superbowl ring but he's also had nine brain surgeries.

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I'm George Visger. I played with the San Francisco 49ers in ‘80 and ‘81. I was a member of the first Super Bowl Championship team in ‘81. And I developed hydrocephalus, had my 1st of 9 brain surgeries then and still dealing with it. My concussion history began my third year in Pop Warner when I was 13. I was knocked unconscious in a bull in a ring drill. Hospitalized. I had a number of what they call minor concussions through high school and college, several that were more severe in college. And then I had two years in the pros. My last major--major concussion was actually in the first game I played with the 49ers in 1980 against the Dallas Cowboys. And I was knocked unconscious basically. Played the whole game. They said I went through 20 or 25 smelling salts during the game to keep me in playing, never missed a play, never missed a practice. The following year when we came back is when I developed hydrocephalus, water on the brain, and underwent emergency VP shunt brain surgery. They've moved it 4 times now, I've had 9 brain surgeries over the years. But they drilled a hole in my skull, the tube goes in the middle of my ventricles, there's a pressure valve back here in the back of my head and there's a tube goes down the side of my neck down to my abdomen it drains spinal fluid out of my head 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So when this plugs up or goes out I go into a coma within 12 to 24 hours, and they need to get me in and reoperate. So this has been my life post NFL.
Posted on BrainLine January 3, 2013.

About the author: George Visger

A defensive lineman on the San Francisco 49ers’ first Super Bowl champions in 1981-82, George Visger has lived with a shunt in his brain ever since — a consequence of the cumulative concussions. He is now a prominent figure in the fight for fair treatment of retired NFL players.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Jared Schaubert, BrainLine, and Dan Edblom.