Next year, it will be close to criminal.
The American public can no longer plead ignorance when it comes to supporting, financing and enabling the cynical exercise in human carnage for cash that is known as professional football. Since the last Super Bowl was played, “Concussion” visited the movie theaters, putting in dramatic form the undeniable facts exposed in the documentary “League of Denial.” Both “Concussion’s” director and its star, Will Smith, have stated in interviews that they don’t think they can enjoy watching football any more.Reaching this conclusion should not require the experience of making a movie about the facts of the deadly concussion epidemic that the NFL blithely promotes, nor months of bringing to life a script describing how players have been misled and lied to in order to keep them sacrificing their bodies, minds and future to the greedy maw of a billion dollar. It should only require logic, humanity, decency, and bit of sacrifice.
In just the last several days, the casualty list of NFL stars found to have damaged their brains has lengthened significantly.
Former Oakland Raiders star quarterback Ken Stabler’s brain was found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, the concussion-triggered brain disease. A day after that announcement, the late Colts star quarterback Earl Morrall’s brain was found to be similarly damaged. Stories were published around the same time about former Minnesota Viking linebacker Fred McNeil, who died in November and was also suffering from CTE. He had become a lawyer after his playing days, but began losing his memory and ability to concentrate. He had violent mood swings, and by his mid 40s, had lost his career, his job, his family, and his home. Former NY Giants star and famous broadcaster Frank Gifford died last year: he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy too.
On September 8, former Giants safety Tyler Sash was found dead at age 27 of an accidental overdose of pain medications at his Iowa home. The results of an autopsy announced at the end of January showed that Sash already had advanced CTE. So did the brain of a 25-year-old former college football player whose brain was discussed in a February article in “Neurology Today.” From the case study:
The case, reported in the January 4 online issue of JAMA Neurology, involved a young man whose cognitive, mood, and behavioral symptoms progressively worsened following a history of 10 concussions incurred while playing football from age 6 till his junior year in college.
The patient completed a neurocognitive battery of tests prior to his death (due to an unrelated cardiac infection) at age 25. Although those tests revealed multiple deficits, and his symptoms steadily worsened for three years after he stopped playing, a consensus panel of clinicians blinded to his pathology report was unable to reach a primary diagnosis of CTE.
“Although CTE was considered,” the report stated, “the lack of delay in symptom onset, his young age, and his family history of depression reasoned against CTE as the primary diagnosis. Consensus members thought that neuropsychological performance, while impaired, did not discriminate postconcussive syndrome or major depression from CTE.”
That pathology report, however, was conclusive for a diagnosis of CTE, based on mild ventricular dilation, hippocampal atrophy, and pathological lesions of hyperphosphorylated tau consisting of neurofibrillary tangles, neurites, and astrocytes around small blood vessels found at the sulcal depths of the frontal and temporal lobes.
It’s not just the NFL that is crippling young men. It’s college football too. Continue reading