Beloved former KDKA-TV personality Jon Burnett has suspected CTE

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Jon Burnett, erstwhile KDKA-TV personality, has suspected CTE

Jon Burnett, erstwhile KDKA-TV personality, has suspected CTE 09:08

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Jon Burnett was 1 of Pittsburgh's favourite on-air personalities for 36 years. 

At KDKA-TV, helium co-hosted Evening Magazine, Pittsburgh Today, did the upwind and co-hosted Pittsburgh Today Live for 11 years.

Burnett was ever known for his adventurous and spontaneous spirit, consenting to effort thing similar rappelling down a precocious rise, driving a jeep implicit boulders oregon racing connected Big Wheels.

Burnett retired 5 years ago erstwhile helium was 65, but galore radical don't cognize he's been facing immoderate large wellness challenges since then, and helium precocious got a diagnosis. His neurologist says he has suspected CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a progressive encephalon illness caused by repetitive blows to the head. It's suspected due to the fact that the lone mode to definitively diagnose CTE is with an autopsy of the brain.

Before Burnett was connected TV, helium was connected different stage: the shot field. Burnett and his household wanted to stock their communicative for galore reasons. To assistance everyone amended recognize CTE, to assistance others who whitethorn look it, to region the stigma astir encephalon illness and to proceed Burnett's bequest of giving backmost to the Pittsburgh community.

Jon, his woman Debbie and his big children Samantha and Eric sat down to speech with KDKA-TV's Kristine Sorensen, who remains friends with Burnett aft 20 years moving unneurotic connected the anchor table and arsenic PTL co-hosts.

Kristine says she has seen Burnett's short-term representation worsen implicit the past respective years, arsenic good arsenic his locomotion and his voice. She asked him astir it and however status is going.

"I spent immoderate of my clip wishing that my dependable wasn't gone," Burnett said. "It's conscionable this is the champion I tin do. This is simply a bully day. My woman Debbie's here. What is incorrect with me? What's incorrect with my throat?"

Burnett asks his woman of 48 years to assistance him retrieve a batch of things. And done it all, helium understands what's happening.

"She's my brains. Somebody would person to be," helium says.

Kristine asks Jon, "What does it consciousness similar erstwhile you can't retrieve something? Is it frustrating oregon what is it you spell through?"

"It's not arsenic frustrating arsenic it erstwhile was," Burnett says, "because I'm increasing accustomed to it. I conjecture it's familiar."

Jon's short-term representation has been declining for 10 years, but different symptoms person gotten worse successful the past two, including shuffling and reduced facial expression.

Debbie doesn't permission him unsocial astatine each since helium had a choking incidental and is present connected a soft-food diet. He's not allowed to drive. He's adjacent had to beryllium hospitalized a mates of times recently.

"There decidedly person been challenges," Debbie says. "It's not what you deliberation of status being."

Jon's daughter, Samantha, and son, Eric, are speedy to absorption connected the positive; however their dada inactive loves clip with household and playing with his 5 grandkids, who are ages 1 to 13.

Eric says, "He's inactive there. He's inactive having conversations with (his grandkids). He's inactive moving around, picking them up and having peculiar saccharine moments with them, and truthful that, successful itself, is simply a blessing."

Samantha says, "In his bosom and successful his core, he's inactive dad. He loves his family. He loves people. He loves the outdoors. And nary of that has changed."

Jon adds, "I inactive got my kids and grandkids to pursuit astir the house. I'm never, ever gonna springiness that up, adjacent if I'm crawling connected my hands and knees.

"Life wouldn't beryllium beingness without them. You'll cognize someday," helium says to Kristine.

So aft years of tests and doctor's appointments, UPMC cognitive neurologist Dr. Joseph Malone ruled retired each different imaginable causes and diagnosed Jon with suspected CTE.

Kristine asks Jon, "What did you deliberation erstwhile the doc told you you person suspected CTE, which comes from caput injuries?"

Jon replied, "So first, I was benignant of arrogant due to the fact that it meant that I had been doing my job. Head first, chin up, look disguise here, close into his caput oregon his tummy oregon whatever. But whoever I was tackling oregon blocking, I was doing a fig connected astir of them, but ultimately, I paid the terms with the concussions that I had implicit the years, respective of them."

Jon played tackle shot successful Knoxville, Tennessee starting astatine the property of 10.

"I played some ways successful precocious school. I was a fullback and a antiaircraft end," Jon said.

He was yet recruited to play antiaircraft extremity astatine the University of Tennessee. During his years connected the field, Jon suffered 2 large concussions wherever helium was knocked retired cold: 1 during signifier astatine the Gator Bowl wherever helium was deed truthful hard, it divided his helmet.

He estimates helium utilized his caput to deed different subordinate 30-40 times a game, adding up to hundreds of hits implicit a decade, which is 1 of the superior reasons Jon's neurologist suspects CTE.

"The main hazard origin is thing we telephone repetitive caput injuries, oregon RHI, and this reflects aggregate bonks to the caput essentially," said Dr. Malone.

Jon's woman Debbie said, "I deliberation we knew this successful the backmost of our mind. I deliberation he's ever said, 'This is due to the fact that of each the hits I took.'"

Like galore kids, Football was Jon's passionateness from a young age.

"I rapidly discovered that I liked interaction which, of course, is wherefore my caput is truthful screwed up today. And I liked the camaraderie that went with being connected a team.

"Scoring touchdowns, intercepting passes, making a large tackle down the enactment of scrimmage — each those things I did, and you know, each those things inactive motivate maine today. But would I bash it each implicit again? Absolutely. Would I effort to support my caput a small spot more? I'd try, but I don't cognize if it would person helped oregon not."

There's nary mode to archer precisely what caput injuries caused Jon's suspected CTE, 1 much crushed researchers are trying to survey radical who played each kinds of interaction sports.

Doctors inactive don't cognize wherefore immoderate radical with caput injuries get CTE and others don't, however to wholly forestall it portion inactive playing interaction sports, oregon however to dainty it.

Jon and his household privation to stock his communicative to assistance others and forestall much radical from processing it, including by making sports safer.

His son, Eric said, "Even though a batch of what we are discussing tin beryllium looked astatine arsenic antagonistic and sad, I deliberation that, again, what we're doing close now, what you're doing, dad, close now, is this is wholly Jon Burnett — looking astatine the affirmative successful each concern and reasoning astir the bully that you tin bash for others."

Jon said, "And I'll ne'er hide the things that I watched arsenic these guys grew up into beauteous adults that you spot here. I'm talking astir my daughter, Samantha, my son, Eric, and my wife, Debbie, is my rock."

It's an affectional travel for everyone who loves Jon, but there's anticipation that this prima of the shot tract and tv volition besides radiance a airy connected the imaginable dangers of repeated caput injuries and assistance everyone amended recognize their impact.

"If I tin assistance anybody connected this road, who is connected this roadworthy oregon volition beryllium connected this roadworthy successful the years ahead, I consciousness amended astir being capable to bash that and being capable to larn from my experiences," helium said. 

Jon is portion of probe astatine the National Sports Brain Bank astatine the University of Pittsburgh, wherever scientists are moving to larn astir CTE. They request immoderate jock who played a athletics with a higher hazard of caput wounded to enactment successful their survey truthful they tin larn much astir wherefore immoderate radical get it, immoderate don't and what tin beryllium done to forestall and dainty it.

The survey involves an yearly online questionnaire and agreeing to donate your encephalon upon death. The encephalon tin beryllium removed without immoderate alteration to the remainder of the assemblage and tin inactive let for a accepted ceremonial and unfastened casket.

If you are funny successful signing up oregon learning more, spell to the National Sports Brain Bank website here.

Kristine Sorensen

Kristine Sorensen

Kristine Sorensen joined KDKA arsenic a reporter/anchor successful April 2003. She anchors KDKA-TV News astatine 5 p.m., arsenic good arsenic peculiar reports and Kidsburgh stories, successful concern with Kidsburgh.org​, featuring the affirmative things successful our assemblage for kids and families. Kristine besides hosted "Pittsburgh Today Live" for 11 years connected KDKA.

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