When doctors autopsied a star athlete, they found what the NFL hoped they wouldn't.

This story is chilling, but not at all unique.Warning: autopsy imagery.

When doctors autopsied a star athlete, they found what the NFL hoped they wouldn't.

There's no denying that football can be a violent sport.

At least some fans may even prefer it that way.

For the Steelers of the 1970s, the "hard-hitting, brutal defense" of the team came to exemplify the hardscrabble realities of Pittsburgh in that era. One player was a symbol above all others.

Then the local hero who went on to be a Hall-of-Famer died suddenly 11 years after he retired. Iron Mike was 50. This is where our story begins.

Mike Webster's body went to the Allegheny County coroner's office, where he was seen by Dr. Bennet Omalu.

Dr. Omalu is a talented neuropathologist from Nigeria, but he was not familiar with the fame of Iron Mike.

From the very beginning of the autopsy, Dr. Omalu noted the effects of football on the relatively young Webster.

He did not look 50.

So many parts of his body were worn from the game.

He had a torn rotator cuff, a broken vertebrae.

His teeth were falling out.

Then there was the matter of Webster's head.

Dr. Omalu expected to find a brain with Alzheimer's, one that is shriveled. But when he took a look, he found something unexpected.

That made him curious, so he investigated further. Had it not been for that curiosity, things might be different today, for what he found would shake the core of the NFL.

See the beginning (and then keep watching) this incredible "Frontline" documentary.

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