NFL Concussion Cases Latest Findings
By now you have heard the discussion in main stream media about the relationship between NFL football players, actually football players of all levels and ages, and the news has not been good. In fact there has been a billion dollar settlement awarded to NFL players both alive and deceased due to the evidence of the degenerative disease C.T.E. and the repeated blows to the head that NFL player endure. In a recent study performed by Dr. Anne McKee, chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the CTE Center at Boston University facts behind C.T.E. and the NFL are alarming and could bring down massive changes in the game as we know it.
Tuesday July 26th, Dr. Ann McKee released a broad survey of her study in the Journal of American Medicine Association. The study, “Clinicopathological Evaluation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Players of American Football” asks one main question: “What are the neuropathological and clinical features of a case series of deceased players of American football neuropathologically diagnosed as having chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)?” Her findings are alarming not for just the NFL players in the U.S., but all players, of all ages that play the sport we love so much in America, football. C.T.E. causes a myriad symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can arise years after the blows to the head have stopped.
I still have memories of being a child and my Dad trekking our family across hundreds of miles in an ’83 Chevy van that was the color of faded lemons to visit his church. His place of worship every Sunday for six months out of the year, Dallas Cowboys Stadium. After paying hundreds of dollars, we walked down the cool and dark players entrance, literally a light at the end of the tunnel was waiting for us. We stepped into the light, the sight was both awe inspiring and surreal. Thousands of seats reaching far up into the sky, the sun barely peeking through the corner of the opening in the roof, illuminating the bright green field and the memories of so many great NFL moments and players. For my Dad it was a dream come true, and for me it was the start of a love affair with the game. I would continue to play football throughout my childhood, all through my years in middle and high school, and had it not been for a back injury I would have attended college on a football scholarship. After reading Dr. Mckee’s study, I have to admit that I am glad that I never took that next step into collegiate football.
According to Dr. McKee’s study that encompassed far more than NFL level players, the repetitive head trauma that goes hands in hand with the sport of football at any level, not just the professional level. Dr. Mckee looked at 202 deceased former football players (111 of them played in the NFL) ages 47-76, median age being 66 years, C.T.E. was diagnosed in 177 players (87%). These players battled on the field in pre-high school ball, high school, college, semi-professional and of course professional ball. Here is the breakdown:
- Linemen- 44
- Running Backs – 20
- Defensive Backs – 17
- Linebackers -13
- Quarterbacks – 7
- Tight Ends – 2
- Place-kickers – 1
- Punters -1
The brains listed are from players who died as young as 23 and as old as 89. They are from every position on the field — quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers, and even a place-kicker and a punter. They are the brains of guys that you never heard of to Hall of Fame inductees such as Ken Stabler. What exactly were Dr. McKee’s findings? “In a convenience sample of deceased football players who donated their brains for research, a high proportion had neuropathological evidence of CTE, suggesting that CTE may be related to prior participation in football.”
What does all this mean for the future of football in America? There is still a lot we have to learn about C.T.E. Who gets it, who doesn’t, and why? Can anything be done to stop the degeneration once it begins? How many blows to the head, and at what levels, must occur for C.T.E. to take hold? “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football — there is a problem,” Dr. McKee said.
What about the NFL? They are already paying out millions of dollars and I am sure they will continue to pay, but what about future player? The N.F.L.’s top health and safety official has acknowledged a link between football and C.T.E., and the league has begun to steer children away from playing the sport in its regular form, encouraging safer tackling methods and promoting flag football, but nothing has been done at the collegiate, semi-professional and professional levels.
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