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Concussions and CTE in Football

Jason Hayden, Writer

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Concussions are changing the way people look at football. According to CNN.com, retired NFL players who have suffered concussions are experiencing progressive degenerative diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a dementia-like disease. If this is the case and the downside leads to a ruined future and possibly even death, why do players play? 

Concussions occur frequently in football so it’s like playing Russian roulette with your life. A lot of people dream of being drafted into the NFL but if they were aware of the price they would have to pay for realizing their dream would be cashing in their brain, they might rethink their dreams.  Among other disabling consequences of concussions, there is a long list of NFL players who have committed suicide. They are now finding that many if not all of these players suffered concussions, and after their suicides, their autopsies showed the presence of CTE. CTE is believed to be the cause of their suicides.

According to SBIndependent.org, the following players’ deaths can be linked to CTE and concussion-like symptoms:
• Denver Broncos lineman Shane Dronett shot himself
• Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Terry Long committed suicide by drinking antifreeze
• Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters shot himself in the head
• Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling shot himself
• Kansas City Chiefs Jovan Belcher shot himself at the Chief’s training facility
• San Diego Chargers linebacker Tiaina Baul Junior Seau shot himself
• Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest so his brain could be examined after his death. He texted his family to have his brain donated to CTE research, which they did and it was confirmed that he did have CTE

All of these athletes had CTE caused by their football careers. Many NFL players are now donating their brains for research because they are experiencing symptoms and suspect they may have CTE. A lot of these players are experiencing debilitating neurological problems including memory loss, aggression, neurologically induced depression, balance problems, poor impulse control, erratic behavior, and loss of motor function. PBS.org reports that the nation’s largest brain bank examined 79 former NFL players finding evidence of degenerative brain disease in 76 of them. They say that according to data filed in federal court, “the NFL expects nearly a third of all retired players to develop a long-term cognitive problem such as Alzheimer’s or dementia as a result of football.” In a separate study according to NYTimes.com, a neuropathologist examined the brains of 111 NFL players and found CTE in all but one of them. That’s 110 out of 111; those odds are not good.

It looks like players don’t have to wait until they die to find out if they are suffering from CTE.  According to an article posted to NYPost.com, there has been a breakthrough because researchers have found CTE in a living former NFL Vikings linebacker, Fred McNeill. Brain scans showed the presence of “a protein associated with CTE called tau.”

In 2012, a billion-dollar class-action concussion lawsuit was filed against the NFL on behalf of over 2,000 NFL players for failing to inform players of the link between concussions and long-term neurologic brain damage. The settlement became final in January of 2017, according to nflconcussionsettlement.com. Despite this settlement, it’s important to remember that the NFL makes billions every year off of its athletes.  It seems very wrong for them not to let them know up front the hazards of playing what we now know is a dangerous and sometimes deadly game. They would be wise to invest some of their money into finding a way to protect their players from damaging their brains.

Your brain is everything. Without it, your life is over. With this in mind, this great American pastime might have to go through some major changes in the near future in order to survive.

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Concussions and CTE in Football