Are We Ready To Change Football To Prevent Brain Injuries?

We know that there are tragic and lasting damage done to football players due to head injuries. What are we going to do now to prevent them?

Maybe it's because I'm female, maybe because I grew up in countries that liked soccer (though they did call it "football") more, maybe it's because I've lived in areas in the US where there were far more things to do than watch football games on Friday nights, but I just don't have a deep and abiding love for the game of football. I know people that do (looking at you, Amato) and I sort of understand it, but I just cannot understand why there hasn't been more outcry from the fans to address the issues of traumatic brain injury.

Of course, as science has advanced, we've learned concussions are more than just pain. Recent research on the pathology of brains, conducted by the Boston University Center, suggests that over time a high level of exposure to intense physical contact can cause permanent brain damage. Potential risks include chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can cause depression and suicide in older athletes. Many suspect that CTE, a condition caused by a high number of concussions, could have led to Junior Seau's recent suicide.

It's more than Seau's suicide. Many other former NFL players have committed suicide after suffering from the effects of CTE, even if it hadn't yet been diagnosed. How is this okay with any real fan?

Can we be as heartless as University of Georgia Coach Mark Richt, who thinks we've gone "soft" as a society? Should we be as lacksadaisical as the Georgia Bulldog who cheerfully accepts the guarantee of at least three concussions in exchange for his tuition? And that assumes that he got no concussions during his time playing Pee-wee, Pop Warner or high school football. Maybe we should let him look at how well Joe DeLamielleure is doing now in his 60s.

“We played on AstroTurf that was torn up. There’s no [more] head slaps, I’ve got 68 percent hearing loss in my left ear,” he told George Stephanopoulos on ‘This Week’ on Sunday as part of a panel on concussions in football. “There’s no more chop blocks, there’s no more wedge. It used to be called the suicide squad, the special teams.”

Dr. Ann McKee, a leading neuropathologist at Boston University and a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan, studies chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head traumas, in the brains of deceased football players.

“I see tragic stories under the microscope,” she told Besser in an interview for “This Week.” “I see kids who’ve died in their teens with the early stages of this disease. It’s really quite unsettling.”

In August, a lawsuit brought against the NFL by more than 4,500 former players, who claimed the league withheld information on the dangers of concussions, was settled for $765 million. The settlement was reached on the understanding that the NFL admitted no fault.

[..]DeLamielleure, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, was recently diagnosed with having signs of CTE.

“I feel betrayed by the NFL and the union because we had no health insurance,” DeLamielleure said Sunday. “That’s the problem for the guys who played before ’93.”

Nor was DeLamielleure as generously compensated for putting his body on the line as players are today. A number one draft pick, his annual salary didn’t rise above $30,000.

DeLamielleure credits the league with making attempts to improve the safety of the game, but says their efforts don’t go far enough. “I think they’re doing the right thing, but for them to continue to do the right thing they have to make it better for the guys who created this monstrosity of a league,” he said.

Clearly the NFL doesn't want to be honest about the problems they're creating, so it's up to the fans to demand that the sport is changed to prevent these kind of injuries...all the way down the line. There's no reason that children who play football should already show signs of CTE.

About Nicole Belle

Nicole Belle's picture
Mom, Wife, Media Critic/Political Analyst, Blogger, Austen Fanatic, Unapologetic Liberal NicoleBelle@crooksandliars.com

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