Football Fridays- How Much is Too Much?

brain scanI know getting hit in the head isn’t a great thing for you, but I never knew just how bad it could be.  New research is coming out revealing that head injuries are a very big problem, for players in the NFL and for those that have retired. Should we be more concerned about the safety measures taken for them? Some might argue that they “know what they’re getting themselves into” or it’s a “risk of the game”. Others could feel less than sympathetic because they make millions of dollars a year and we might perceive them to be a lot better off than most of us. But does depression and memory loss in your 40’s sound good to you?

Tony Dorsett, a former NFL player, announced that he has been diagnosed with early signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This disease is due to a buildup of a protein called tau which kills brain cells involved in memory. It is a condition that may stem from multiple traumatic blows to the head. It causes confusion and memory loss, as well as depression and dementia.

Dorsett’s claim was dismissed in May by a workers’ comp judge because he had accepted payment for injuries back in 1991 so he was not eligible to file another claim. At age 59, he gets lost when he drives on his regular routes, has mood swings and has caught himself thinking suicidal thoughts.

“It’s painful, man, for my daughters to say they’re scared of me,” Dorsett said. “It’s painful.”

This disease has been found in over 50 deceased NFL players, including Junior Seau and Dave Duerson who both committed suicide. Duerson was 50 and Seau was 43. If you’ll remember, Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest because he knew he had a problem and he wanted scientists to be able to study his brain. If the NFL and other professional sporting associations don’t think they have a problem, they’re wrong.

An article from CBS News states that the NFL is facing thousands of lawsuits from players who say the league withheld information regarding the harmful side effects of head injuries. If players like Dorsett get their cases dismissed, what’s left for the thousands of others who suffer? What about minor league players, who might incur the same amount of trauma but don’t have nearly as much money to fight for the cause? College athletes? Studies indicate that younger brains are lighter and can move around the skull more easily. One of the doctors researching CTE suggested that kids under 14 not even be allowed to play tackle football.

Sports are progressing fast and the amount of intensity is increasing at all levels. It’s a little scary to think what is going to happen to kids who start when they’re very young and play intensely until they’re 35.

These are guys who are playing largely for our entertainment, and it is a multi-billion dollar industry whose appeal comes from big hits and smashing of its’ players. Football makes the headlines because it is a brutal game, but athletes from other sports suffer after they’ve left the spotlight. Are we really going to sit by and watch their physical and mental states crumble after they leave the game?

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