by Ralph E. Stone on August 1, 2017

study published in the July 25, 2017 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association found the following:

“In a convenience sample of 202 deceased players of American football from a brain donation program, CTE was neuropathologically diagnosed in 177 players across all levels of play (87%), including 110 of 111 former National Football League players (99%). . . .  [S]uggesting that CTE may be related to prior participation in football.”

This study provides further evidence that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., on the health dangers of playing football.  The symptoms of C.T.E. include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and, eventually, progressive dementia. These symptoms often begin years or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.

The clear conclusion of this and other studies is that football is not a safe sport and it is unlikely it can be made safe. NFL players are our gladiators taking the field to do battle for our entertainment.  Unlike the gladiators of old, they do not fight to the death on game day, but will likely pay a dreadful price in the future.  The gladiators did not have a choice; our young men do.  In the meantime, the NFL, colleges and universities will continue to rake in the profits from today’s gladiators.

But football players wear helmets.  Shouldn’t helmets protect players from the trauma of a head-on collision?  No, helmets  are designed to protect the skull, not the brain. The brain can be hurt as it smashes against the skull, causing a range of symptoms including headaches and loss of consciousness.

Why does anyone become a football player at any level with these health risks?  The major reason, I suspect, is the prospect of making lots of money.  An NFL football player averages $1.9 million in salary plus endorsements with Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders quarterback raking in $25,000,000 per year.  At one time, football players knew the risks of injury but not the risks of head trauma that could follow them long after retirement.  Now they do.

But even knowing the likely risks, the so-called Goldman Dilemma is instructive.  “Researcher Bob Goldman surveyed elite athletes every other year from 1982 to 1995. He asked them a simple question. If you could take a drug that guaranteed you would win an Olympic gold medal, but it would kill you within five years, would you do it? In every survey, Goldman got the same results. About half of the athletes would accept that trade-off.”

Unfortunately, football may be too big to ban.  NFL football is a multi-billion dollar industry and will continue to attract young men seeking fame and fortune so football will likely continue as before.  Sure the NFL will enact new rules and provide better equipment, but no matter how you parse it, football is just too dangerous to play.

Filed under: National Politics

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