The Football Problem

The New York Times posted an article today (https://nyti.ms/2tGP9To) that referred to a study that showed staggering percentages of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of deceased football players. Of the 202 players they observed (from the NFL and CFL), 87 percent showed to have some level of CTE. It’s a problem that the NFL has been trying to battle for years now, both on the field and in the courtroom.

CTE is a condition caused by “repeated blows to the head” that can cause some serious symptoms like “memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia.” Concussions are sought to be the main cause to CTE. The condition is believed to have contributed to several high profile suicides like former linebacker Junior Seau. It’s a condition that has no discrimination among age, with a range from the mid 20s to their early 80s cited in the study.

In recent years, these sorts of studies have raised concerns with parents of pop warner and grade school players. Many parents have forced their kids to stop playing. The NFL also had to pay a hefty price in a lawsuit back in 2016 filed by former players:

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/15229132/appeals-court-upholds-1-billion-nfl-concussion-settlement

I will point out the fact that the results of this study does have a bit of a bias, because all of the donated brains were from families who believed the sufferer had CTE. But, the study still shows that CTE is a relevant problem within the world of football. Unfortunately, there isn’t an efficient way to test for CTE on living subjects, but methods are being developed to resolve that issue.

With the revelation of this new info, I believe the NFL has to make some crucial decisions to address the concussion/CTE problem. They have taken a few actions in recent years, like instituting a concussion protocol for when players appear injured in real-time, but this process is still corruptible in a few ways. They’ve also instituted new rules that protect the head, but it still doesn’t deter a large portion of concussions.

I love the NFL like many other Americans, but I also cherish the safety of the participants. The NFL should pour more money into researching more effective diagnosis and treatments of concussions and CTE. They should also look into better technology regarding their equipment (helmets, pads, etc…) that could better protect the players.

Ultimately this comes down to the question of “will anything get done?” As is, the NFL is the premier sport in the US where every weekend during the fall becomes a ritual of consumption. Is there going to be a big enough outcry for the NFL to do something? Will the NFL act out of good nature, or will they try to slide the problem under the rug? Will they continue to change their rules package to protect the head even more than it already tries to do? I don’t think they have a big enough incentive yet, but it’ll be interesting to see how this study changes the public’s perception. I also don’t know what the solution is, but it’s clearly something that will continue to be introduced in one form or another until the problem is alleviated.

 

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