Just ten days after winning his third Super Bowl championship, New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi’s life nearly changed forever.
On February 16th 2005, Bruschi was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital after suffering from temporary numbness, blurred vision, and headaches.
He was diagnosed by doctors with a mild stroke.
Bruschi recounted his diagnosis in a 2014 interview with Men’s Health;
“My doctors told me I had a congenital heart defect called a patent foramen ovale, or PFO, which is basically a small hole in my heart. A blood clot had formed in my body, and it found a sort of a shortcut through my heart defect to my brain. That caused an ischemic stroke, which is a blockage of blood to the brain. By the time I got to the hospital, it was too late to prevent or reverse the damage. But had I recognized the warning signs within a window—usually 3 to 4 hours—I could have taken certain medications to reverse or stop the effects of the stroke.”
“I thought I’d never be the same again,” Bruschi said. “When I thought of stroke, I didn’t think of a full recovery.”
On July 20th 2005, the Patriots announced Bruschi would sit out the 2005 season.
“Since suffering a mild stroke on Feb. 16, 2005, Tedy Bruschi has focused on the short-term goal of getting better every day. His health has improved steadily during the past five months and Tedy continues to make daily improvements with his on-going rehabilitation. It has been an offseason of many emotional highs and lows for Tedy and his family. With the Patriots’ training camp reporting date now just over a week away, Tedy has reached a decision on his playing status for the upcoming season and has declared his intentions to forgo the 2005 campaign.”
With the desire to play football still on his mind, Bruschi devoted each day that spring and summer to extensive physical therapy, remarkably restoring his body to a point where his doctors started to believe football might be possible again.
The blood clot behind Bruschi’s stroke had dissolved into his bloodstream and the patent foramen ovale had been sealed shut.
After consulting with multiple medical experts, Bruschi was cleared to return to the football field on October 16th 2005, just eight months after having the stroke.
His impact on the field was felt immediately, Bruschi had two tackles and five assists, in his first game back against the Buffalo Bills on October 30th. He was named AFC Player of the Week for his efforts.
“I’m a football player by trade. That’s what I do,” Bruschi said after the game. “So I did everything I could to make myself a football player again.”
On Twitter this week, Bruschi’s foundation “Tedy’s Team” reflected back on the 13th anniversary of his comeback.
13 years ago today, our Captain walked back onto the field at @GilletteStadium to play his first game back as a stroke survivor. Thank you, @TedyBruschi for inspiring other survivors to never give up on their comeback. #TedysTeam #WeSurviveWeRun #OGTB @Patriots pic.twitter.com/kyvHYRutue
— Tedy's Team (@TedysTeam) October 30, 2018