JUPITER, Fla. —Joe Namath was one of the most revered football players of his time.
"It was part of my life very early on," he said.
As the star quarterback for 13 seasons with the New York Jets, Namath took his fair share of hard hits.
"I didn't pay much attention to the fact that I had been hit in the head several times," he said.
Those hits have now come back to haunt him.
Nearly three years ago, Namath was having normal age-related forgetfulness, but as other former players started to speak out about head injuries, Namath began to worry.
"They shed some light for a whole lot of us that, 'Hey, I better check into this,'" he said.
Namath reached out to doctors at Jupiter Medical Center in Florida.
A brain scan taken in 2012 showed one side of his brain in yellow and orange, which shows normal blood flow and function. On the other side there was a purple and blue area, which means the brain cells weren't getting the oxygen they needed.
"It showed he had damage to the left side of his brain," Dr. Lee Fox said. "It just made sense because he is a right-handed quarterback and he was constantly getting hit on the left side."
"I was scared, of course," Namath said.
Namath became the first patient in what would become a ground-breaking clinical trial.
For seven months, five days a week he spent an hour inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Oxygen has long been used to treat wounds, and doctors wanted to see if oxygen could heal traumatic brain injuries by waking up damaged cells and revitalizing them.
"After the first 40 dives we took another series of cognitive tests and took another brain scan and we saw improvement then in both areas," Namath said.
The scan showed that the damage was gone.
"The scans are beautiful and I really feel like I've gotten sharper," Namath said.
But given what he knows now about traumatic brain injuries, would Namath play football again?
"No," he said. "I hate to say that because if I had a child who wanted to play I'd let them play, but I'd wait until he developed a little more."