You know that by watching the Super Bowl, you’re helping to kill and cripple young men, right?
Sure you do.
You and people like you watch the Super Bowl, maybe hold parties around it, allowing the NFL to make millions of dollars selling ads and merchandise off of the most watched sporting event of the year. And, of course, the popularity of the Super Bowl makes it the year’s #1 promotion for the billion dollar mega-industry that is the National Football League, and down the line, for billion dollar corrupt big time college football, and in places like Texas and other regions warped by the “Friday Night Lights” mentality, high school football, and further down the line, youth football, where kids a young as 8 begin getting the blows to the head that will help make them confused and dysfunctional in their fifties or earlier if they play long enough…and maybe even if the don’t.
Hey, these are great nachos! Is this a microbrew? Look at that funny ad!
The film above, “Concussion Protocol,” was released this month, and shows a compilation of every reported concussion this season. Directed by Josh Begley and produced by Laura Poitras, it is believed to be a nearly complete compilation of the NFL’s reported 281 concussions this season, the most since 2012. The NFL, which is affirmatively evil, is spinning this as a good thing, pointing out that it means that players are self-reporting their head injuries more often.
Sure. That must be it. Bravo! Problem solved. DE-Fence!
A study released in January showed that a single serious head injury creates a significant risk of dementia decades later. But concussions are not the whole problem, and maybe not even the main problem.
A study published last month in Brain, a journal of neurology, indicated that repetitive hits to the head that don’t lead to concussions, with no loss of consciousness or other symptoms that like headaches, dizziness, vision problems or confusion, still cause CTE, the brain disease that 100 former NFL players have been found to have following a postmortem diagnosis. CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative disease that causes severe neurological problems including memory loss, confusion, aggression, and dementia.
“We’ve had an inkling that subconcussive hits — the ones that don’t [show] neurological signs and symptoms — may be associated with CTE,” Dr. Lee Goldstein, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and the lead investigator on the study told NPR. “We now have solid scientific evidence to say that is so. The concussions we see on the ballfield or the battlefield or wherever — those people are going to get attention because it’s obvious they’ve had some sort of injury. We’re really worried about the many more people who are getting hit and getting hurt — their brain is getting hurt — but are not getting help because we can’t see the evidence on the outside that their brain is actually hurt. It’s a silent injury.”
And it would make a boring film: “Non Concussion Protocol.”
Adds Chris Nowinski, who heads the Concussion Legacy Foundation: “We see the hard hits all the time, where a guy pops up and smiles and [signals] a first down, and [we think], ‘OK, that hit was fine.’ But what this study says is: No, that hit probably wasn’t fine, and that poor guy can’t feel the damage that’s happening in his brain right now.”
About 20% of known cases of CTE had no record or report of a concussion.
In case you are wondering, footballs helmets don’t prevent these head injuries. They make them worse. But they look really cool and kids love to wear them, so there’s that.
This Sunday’s Super Bowl match between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles is already shadowed by the sport’s brain damage feature. Patriots’ star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, was only cleared earlier this week for play after sustaining a concussion in the NFL Conference Championships win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 21. Of course, “Gronk” will have the IQ of a vole when he’s 60 if he lives that long, but it should be a great game. The NFL will have in place four concussion specialists around the field to make it look like it cares. This might reduce the class action damages later.
So watch the game; after all, not every player you watch is getting brain disease for your enjoyment, just 99%. As long as you don’t kid yourself that you’re not an essential part of the cynical carnage in this business masquerading as sport that trades lives and families for fun and profit. In the alternative, you could do something else—I’m taking my family to see “The Darkest Hour”— and contribute to a fortuitous trend this season of Americans finally getting fed up with football. It’s doubtful that most of them turned the channel because of CTE; the NFL’s silly kneelers unintentionally helped the cause, and there are some other factors, but never mind: in ethics, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still the right thing.
It’s your choice. If you do choose to cheer on the Pats and the Eagles, though, don’t pretend that you don’t know what you’re really cheering, enabling, and ensuring will keep ruining lives.
[The Ethics Alarms posts on this topic can be found here.]