By Luke Thompson
Julien Bailes will be among the 11-member Class of 2016 enshrined in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony Saturday, June 25.
Retired powerlifting coach Billy Jack Talton remembers Julian Bailes never shied away from smashing his head against opponents as a high school sophomore guard and linebacker for Natchitoches Academy.
Some 30 years later, Bailes found himself at the forefront of a push to make football safer and raise awareness of its dangerous concussion risks. The former Natchitoches Academy All-State linebacker turned neurosurgeon ended his playing career after a neck injury at Northwestern State, but his passion for the game never waned.
The LSU medical school graduate began his contributions early when the Pittsburgh Steelers made him one of the first neurosurgeons to work as an NFL team doctor.
“I love football,” said Bailes, who won a state championship his senior year at Natchitoches Academy. “It was never about trying to end football or diminish football. It was about bringing what we knew was the truth and making reforms to keep players safe.”
That research continues today, along with the debate over the NFL’s responsibilities to protect its players and help those already affected by long, grueling careers. He regularly speaks with major news organizations about effects of concussions in all sports.
Lifelong friend Billy West, a Natchitoches attorney, is part-owner of a business called Taumark dedicated to achieve FDA approval for diagnosis of CTE on a living brain, since it can currently only be identified after death. As the company’s medical advisor, Bailes expects to reach that goal within five years.
Louisiana remains special to the Natchitoches native, who said he returns to his home state at every opportunity. Thanks to his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, no matter where Bailes, he’s always going to be a fixture in his hometown.
Editor’s note – This is one in a series profiling the 11 members of the Class of 2016 being enshrined Saturday, June 25 in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Competitive ballot inductees are P.J. Brown, Jim Hightower, Rick Jones, “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher, Janice Joseph-Richard, Ben Sheets, Arthur “Red” Swanson, and Anthony Thomas. Contributor inductees are Dr. Julian Bailes, Jim Hawthorne and Bob Tompkins. A schedule of events from June 23-25, along with online sales for tickets and golf entries, is available at LaSportsHall.com, with information also available by calling 318-238-4255.