Former BYU linebacker Larry Carr intends to drop his lawsuit against the school, because he’s encouraged about the brain treatment he’s receiving and the athletic department’s potential interest in joining a study designed to help athletes.
Having met recently with BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and the department's medical staff, Carr said, “I'm comfortable that Tom is very concerned about the health and safety of the athletes.”
Carr is hoping to facilitate research by a University of Utah neuropsychology group that would begin with a pilot study of former football players and other athletes and may expand to current BYU athletes, he told The Salt Lake Tribune. Carr is not formally aligned with either the researchers or BYU athletics.
In a statement, the school said, “We are pleased to hear that Larry is interested in dropping the lawsuit against BYU, but cannot comment further on pending litigation against the university. Like Larry, the university is committed to the safety and well-being of its student-athletes and remains interested in technology and processes that offer such protection.”
Carr’s suit, filed in Colorado District Court in August 2016, alleged that BYU, the Western Athletic Conference (the school’s affiliation in the 1970s when Carr played for the Cougars) and the NCAA “kept their players in the dark about an epidemic that was slowly killing their athletes.” Dozens of other former players also have sued various schools and organizations, citing concussion-related symptoms.
In a Tribune interview in May, Carr said, “Unfortunately, legal action is another way to solve a problem. It keeps the conversation going. It puts pressure on people to evaluate what they're doing.”
But now Carr, who had sought $5 million in damages, said he is withdrawing the suit with no settlement. The bigger development, in his view, revolves around his hope of applying what he has learned about treating his own degenerative brain disease to enhancing the performance of current athletes.
Infrared light treatment has “not only stopped the progression, but reversed it — cognitively, emotionally … all of those things that were not supposed to change and were not supposed to be able to be treated, were treated,” said Carr, who is 67.
Having been treated via photobiomodulation for two years, he said, “It's silly for me to say that after 40 years of the progression of a disease that I'm cured. I would never even begin to say that. But it's given me my life back.”
University of Utah neuropsychologists David Tate and Elisabeth Wilde hope to receive institutional board review approval for a pilot study of former athletes that would start this fall. Former BYU running back Jeff Blanc, a teammate of Carr's, said he's among those committed to participating.
“We're getting better at diagnosing these conditions,” Tate said, “yet there are so few treatment options.”
Carr and Tate described BYU as “very supportive” of a possible collaboration that would involve the basic strategy of baseline testing for current athletes, a weekly treatment regimen of infrared lighting and brain stimulation during the season, followed by postseason testing.
Carr said recent stories about his condition — he believes he has chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can be officially diagnosed only after death — have prompted many former football players to contact him. “They’re all looking for hope,” he said.
He believes the treatment program has he undergone can help others. “I think something really big is starting right now,” said Carr, who maintains that he still loves football. “I feel guilty loving it, because I know what can happen. At the same time, it’s a motivator to see what can be done.”