The NFL Will Never Solve Its Concussion Problem
More disappointing news from the NFL: The nation’s largest brain bank found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 76 of 79 former NFL players they examined, according to PBS on Tuesday. Bears safety Dave Duerson, Steelers center Mike Webster and Chargers great Junior Seau were among the brains to have had this degenerative brain disease.
The news comes just a day after ESPN's Outside The Lines reported that Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher's brain showed signs of CTE, according to a research from neuropathologist in New York. Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, in December 2012 before taking is own life hours later at the team’s facility in front of the head coach and the general manager.
If we're keeping score, the researchers over at this brain bank have examined the brains of 128 football players -- not all of them professional -- and just under 80 percent of them showed signs of CTE. And these were only brains that were donated for science. Just think about the others that likely had it and chose not to donate. That's heartbreaking.
Guys like Webster, Duerson and Seau dealt with so much pain that they still felt the need to self-destruct. For most of them, suicide was the answer. Just think about the recent Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice scandals. What if these guys aren’t functioning correctly, mentally? What if we found a link between what they did to brain disease? Would we have any sympathy for them? Now imagine if the Belcher suicide happened today, and not a few years ago.
At what point do we start to feel guilty watching football? That’s an issue ESPN’s Dan LeBatard tried to tackle on Monday. He had legendary sportswriter Bob Ryan on the show, who had an interesting theory on how the women control the game.
“I’ve said this for years. The mothers of America could shut football down tomorrow. They could shut down the supply immediately. If the mothers of America ever got together as a body and said, ‘He ain’t playing. Sorry. That’s it.’ There [goes] the supply. The game would continue with what we have now but in the short order over one cycle of a couple of high school graduating classes, that would be the end of football.”
LeBatard and Ryan have been on the forefront of this head trauma crusade, and it's time we start paying more attention.
If you didn't watch Frontline's League of Denial documentary on PBS, which aired in October 2013 and again tonight, it's available to stream for free here. It will change the way you feel about football.
Here's a handy interactive page of all of the concussions suffered from 2012-2014. When you click at "WR," you'll notice Wes Welker's name on the list. Welker is the most notable active player to have experienced multiple concussions. In the preseason, he suffered his third concussion in a span of 10 months. His brain injuries have triggered a nationwide debate on whether he should continue to play the sport. I live in Miami and got to see Welker play for the Dolphins. He was great and seemed fine when he spoke to the media. In recent interviews, Welker sounds like he’s hammered. It’s extremely sad to see one of the best slot receivers of our lifetime deteriorate like that.
As we continue to gather new data and information, we're starting to realize more and more that the NFL has a concussion problem and it's only going to get worse, especially if they don't make some changes. It's probably why the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a new drug policy. The league chose to be more lenient in the use of marijuana. Why? Because they want to crack down on the use of performance enhancing drugs (ask LaRon Landry) so that they can somewhat control the weight of these guys. They’ve also looked into improving the helmets players are wearing on the field, but to be honest, I'm not sure any of that will truly help the fight against concussions.
[Photo via Getty]
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