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Weighing the Cost: The NFL and Brain Disease

pic is courtesy of www.forbes.com
The suicides of former NFL players Dave Duerson in 2011 at the age of 50 and Junior Seau in 2012 at the age of 43 opened the eyes of many in the world of football. Both died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the chest. Following his request, Duerson’s brain was sent to Boston University’s school of medicine for research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Neurologists at the university confirmed that he had CTE as a result of the concussions he suffered during his playing career.

Later studies by the National Institutes of Health concluded that Junior Seau suffered from CTE as well. Seau retired in 2009 and will be posthumously inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in August of this year.

CTE is a degenerative condition many scientists believe is caused by head trauma. It’s caused by a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein that strangles brain cells. Brain cells generally cannot repair themselves and only in an autopsy can CTE be diagnosed. Repeated concussions may increase a person’s risk later in life to CTE and mental health issues such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and depression.

In 2014 former NFL players Tony Dorsett, Joe DeLamielleure and Leonard Marshall were diagnosed with having symptoms (signs) of CTE. Prior to that in 2010 Former NFL star QB, Jim McMahon admitted to having memory problems due to injuries suffered during his playing days on the football field. In 2012, he was diagnosed with dementia.
In late September 2014, a report from PBS Frontline revealed that new data from the nation’s largest brain bank discovered that 76 of 79 deceased NFL players suffered from CTE.

In April, Federal Senior District Court Judge, Anita Brody approved a plan to settle thousands of NFL concussion lawsuits that could cost the league $1 billion over the span of 65 years. The settlement is designed to compensate those with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other serious neurological conditions. The deal means the NFL may never have to disclose what it knew, and when, about concussion-linked brain problems. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t include future awards for deaths associated with CTE.

According to the USA Today, the NFL expects 6,000 of the nearly 20,000 retired players to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia someday. About 200 NFL retirees or their families have rejected the settlement and plan to sue the league individually. This includes the families of Seau and Duerson.

The NFL and football aren't being picked out by me to be picked on because there are concussion risks involved in any sport with the potential of hard contact, especially hockey. But that’s a topic for another day.

Concussion risk originates at the youth level and generally speaking, regardless of protective equipment and brands, incidents of concussions remain the same. The good news though is the Universities of Virginia Tech and Wake Forest both have helmet rating systems in place for adult football, hockey, baseball, softball and lacrosse helmets that could eliminate the risk of using unsafe protective headgear.

There’ll always be the ongoing debates about what did NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell know and when did he know? But it’s very apparent that there is a link between football and brain disease.

The bible tells us to weigh our costs in whatever we do and truly every football player entering or remaining in the NFL must weigh the cost of playing such a brutal sport. Is the potential for BIG money worth all the health risks from head injuries? If they choose to put on the uniform and play, then after their playing days are over there shouldn’t be any regrets or finger pointing. They’re taking it at their own risk and must accept the consequences, even if it could possibly cost them their lives.

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