The CTE Awareness Foundation Preserves the Memory of Chandler Kimball
Father and son Jason and Chandler Kimball loved football. The Kimballs had season tickets for the Cardinals and even saw them play in the Super Bowl. For them, football was a religion.
“It was spiritual watching Chandler play football,” Jason said. “I have never felt more joy than watching Chandler find joy in his passion.
“But it wasn’t worth it. And there are a lot of other sports we could have enjoyed without such risks.”
The risks came from playing tackling football at a young age. Chandler played youth football and played for Phoenix Desert Vista, where he won a state championship in 2011.
The repeated blows to the head Chandler received in football began to take its toll around the age of 22, and Chandler’s endearing personality took a turn.
“He started to isolate himself, he started to have anxiety. He just started to get uncomfortable,” Jason said. “It was kind of a slow fade in the beginning. He didn’t understand inside because he wasn’t expressing these things to us.”
Three years ago this month, at age 25, Chandler Kimball committed suicide.
Jason contacted Dr. Bennet Omalu, a renowned medical examiner and neuropathologist, who is widely credited with the discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. When Dr. Omalu’s autopsy report of Chandler’s brain could be completed, delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Omalu’s conclusion was that Chandler was suffering from CTE caused by brain trauma during years of football.
“When I saw his brain, it reminded me of what you can see in the brains of young adults like him, who have been exposed to repeated brain trauma, developed symptoms,” Omalu said. “The pathological changes are not yet noticeable, but as we age, the pathology accumulates.
“CTE does not show a linear progression. What does that mean ? What this means is just like Alzheimer’s disease, the amount of symptoms you have doesn’t absolutely depend on the amount of pathology in your brain. “
Jason Kimball associated the CTE with an NFL problem, a common point of view, he said.
“We knew he was struggling, but things were improving. I never thought he would do that, but after the fact, I realized his brain had stopped working.”
Chandler was eight when he first started playing football, and he showed a knack for it. Undersized but a heavy hitter, Chandler played linebacker, safety and fullback as a child.
A blow he received in 2006 forced Jason to remove him from the field and take him to the hospital for observation, as Chandler repeated the same five questions over and over again.
“It was a traumatic experience for me,” Jason said. “In every game and practice after that, I watched for any signs of concussion and he was never diagnosed with another concussion. It’s the sub-concussion hits that add up over time. don’t even have to be diagnosed with a concussion to get CTE. “
Chandler recovered from the daze he was in and loved the game so much that he played it for as long as he could. He was also passionate about music and loved to travel, and had the kind of personality that attracted people, his father said.
After college, symptoms of CTE started to show up.
“The last year and a half of his life, it was just devastating to watch this disease take away his brain,” Jason said. “He started having hallucinations, paranoia, aggression, all those symptoms of CTE that you see in these young men in their early twenties who are diagnosed after death with CTE.”
Jason Kimball and his son were very close. Jason can no longer watch football.
Honoring Chandler’s Name
Jason has read and researched CTE extensively, and the disease is undoubtedly still a problem in football given the recent deaths and subsequent brain exams of former players.
He looked for a way to honor the memory of his son. The idea for the Chandler Kimball Foundation for CTE Awareness was born last year, with the mission of educating parents who are considering playing soccer for their children about the risks associated with it.
“We are not anti-football, and I don’t want to be seen as an ‘anti’ organization. Our focus on youth football is not a good idea,” Jason said. “Research and the medical community confirm this.
“My desire is just to honor Chandler’s name by simply presenting myself in front of other parents so that they don’t have to go through what we’ve been through with him, and more importantly, that the child just has a better chance to live, to be successful and to be happy, ”he added.
Jason thinks Chandler would still be alive if the Kimballs knew more about CTE before Chandler started playing.
“It’s a family problem. It destroyed Chandler’s life and it hurt us unbelievably not to have him around and to know it was preventable, right, if he did. didn’t play football for eight, ten years. ” Jason said. “He would probably still be here.
On Saturday night, the Chandler Kimball Foundation will be hosting a fundraiser at the Sunbar in Tempe called “Life’s Big Win”. Commemorating the third anniversary of Chandler’s death, the event will feature guest speakers including Dr. Omalu and former Cardinals linebacker Eric Hill, and musical performances by top DJ Kaskade from reggae band The Expendables. and electronic artist Bardz.
“Jason really inspired me. He’s a good man,” said Omalu. “He has a very deep level of resolution. Just my interaction with him inspired me.”
Jason worked in the music business and Chandler was a huge Kaskade fan and got to meet him in person.
Former Cardinals quarterback John Skelton will host the event.
Hill learned of the Kimballs from a mutual friend. He read their story and realized that much of what Jason believes is consistent with his own take on youth football.
“I’m aligned with that from a point of view that I truly believe in preventing children at a young age from participating in contact sports,” Hill said.
His 13-year-old son recently played football for the first time in his life. He said he never played organized football until the age of 13 and never missed a beat.
“Knowing what I know now with a lot of trauma created, especially at a young age, that I was not going to subject my son to this,” Hill said. “The more I learned about CTE as a former player and having played with several guys who have committed suicide, this grabs your attention.”
Hill was able to play for over a decade and walk away from gambling without a neurological issue.
“It’s not a hard argument, Jason said.“ I don’t want to tell people that. I want them to make their own decision. I want them to have the information we didn’t have. Before you make that decision, at least understand the risk and understand what you could potentially be risking. ”
For more information on “Life’s Big Win” or the Chandler Kimball Foundation, visit lifesbigwin.com.