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Retired Cowboys struggling with injuries give spinning chair a whirl

Former NFL players are having problems dealing with the concussions and injuries they suffered while playing that game. A lot of them are trying to find a way to get better, including Cowboys veterans Tony Dorsett, Randy White and Darren Woodson.

COPPELL -- Tony Dorsett's 12-year NFL career provided Cowboys fans with the stuff of legends, but the Hall of Fame running back says he is now paying the price.

"I've got these mood swings," he said. "I'm real temperamental. Or, when I get into this fog, I can't focus. I can't concentrate on anything."

Dorsett said he's dealing with the effects of concussions sustained while piling up more than 12,000 rushing yards as a pro. The situation is so bad, Dorsett said he couldn't even watch a half-hour TV show.

"There was no way," he said. "I just get bored with it. I'm not following it as well."

Looking for answers, Dorsett, along with other Cowboys greats, found themselves at the The Carrick Clinic in Coppell.

Hall of Fame defensive lineman Randy White played 14 years with the Cowboys. He became much more aware of long-term issues linked to concussions and his concern stems from not really knowing just how many he suffered.

"If you get a concussion every time you see those little star burst coming out when you have a collision, you know I've had a thousand of them," he said. "When you're an athlete and you're competing, you're not thinking about what you're going to feel like when you're 60 years old."

White turned 60 in January and now he's looking for relief from the aching joint pain he suffers, not to mention the short-term memory loss that can make every day life more of a challenge.

Former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson can relate.

"I'm big on my well being," Woodson said. "I'm big on how I'm feeling each and every day and it scares me to hear all the stories that have gone on throughout the NFL."

Woodson is referring to stories like that of Junior Seau. Woodson saw him just months before Seau took his own life a year ago and said you would have never known there was anything wrong. Meanwhile, Dorsett said while he would never take that route, it doesn't surprise him.

"I could see why sometimes some guys got suicidal because you're just not yourself," he said. "It's not a gradual thing. This thing, just like bam, you're slammed and it just happens and you're there all of a sudden."

It hit Dorsett four or five years ago. Searching for relief following years playing a brutal sport, Dorsett and other former Cowboys ventured outside the boundaries of mainstream medicine, strapping into a device called a rotational chair for what they're calling brain therapy or spin treatments.

"Feels like I'm at the State Fair man," Dorsett said.

"It feels like you're on a merry-go-round or you're on a carnival ride when you were a kid," White added.

The device looks like an astronaut training device. Patients sit in a chair that turns, flips and spins in any number of directions. It's hooked up to a computer that allows spin doctors like chiropractor Cagan Randall to exactly duplicate the chair's movements. Randall said the motion of the chair helps reprogram your inner ear and vestibular system that controls your balance and coordination.

Doctors at the Carrick Clinic claim the end result is better brain function, allowing patients to feel better in a myriad of ways.

"I noticed it right away," Dorsett said. "I'm able to focus. I"m able to sit and watch TV, sit down and read a book.

"I'm not as quick tempered as I was," he added. "And this fog that I tell you about, I get in this fog every now and again, its almost completely gone."

White too said he noticed a difference, adding he feels much better mentally.

"I feel clearer, time will tell," he said.

Woodson said he was skeptical before trying it, but said the back problems and balance issues that's resulted from his career, in which he won multiple Super Bowl championships, forced the issue.

"Once I got my balance right, my body balanced out, I stopped having the back problems," he said. "I stopped having the backaches. To me that was tremendous. That was one of the things that opened my eyes to say, 'Hey, this may be something.'"

But, what exactly is that something? The medical community doesn't know much about the treatment option that's only been online a couple of years. There are only six of the chairs in the entire country.

WFAA contacted the Chairman of Neurosurgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Hunt Batjer, and he released this statement:

"There is inadequate scientific evidence supporting the use of these chairs for them to be considered an effective treatment for cognitive problems associated with head injuries."

- Dr. Hunt Batjer, Chairman of Neurosurgery/UT Southwestern Medical Center

So far, there are only case studies on the treatment. There has been no FDA approval or double-blind studies to try and rule out any placebo effect. Also, the former Cowboy players WFAA talked to don't have to pay for the treatment that costs $5,500 a week. So, unproven or cutting edge depends on your viewpoint.

"What I would sayto the skeptics is that we would like to show our outcomes with you," Randall said. "We would like to show our process so people can understand it's what we do."

Three former Cowboy greats have seen enough to believe and they're not worried about the treatment doing any harm.

"I don't [worry]," White said. "I think the worse thing that could happen to me is I'm going to get better."

"I'm not going to sit here and just watch myself become half the person I was mentally without doing anything about it," Dorsett said.

"That's a good question," Woodson said when asked if he had any fear it could do harm. "I don't know, I have no idea. I know one thing, I feel better. If it's going to make me feel better, I'm all in."

And now, time will tell how many more people are willing take a spin.