Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Player Suicide Reinvigorates Debate Over Neurological Safety of NFL Athletes and Fellow Football Players Alike

For years, the NFL vehemently resisted any and all forms of medical investigation into symptoms and complications associated with concussions.With each passing day, neurological studies of the brains of former players provide more and more damning evidence against the League's unscrupulous behavior. This week, debate regarding the link between concussions and early onset neurodegenerative diseases now finds itself in Nature following the suicide of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson. Duerson apparently felt so psychologically ravaged by mental injuries he sustained during his playing days that the only note he left for his family read, "Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL's brain bank". He then shot himself in the chest, ensuring that his brain remained undamaged. Though Duerson's brain has yet to be examined, the drastic measures to which he resorted in order to alleviate his psychological anguish is consistent with the severe damage these players endure throughout their careers.

The NFL brain bank to which Duerson referred, located at Bedford VA Medical Center here in Massachusetts, has spent the last several years examining former athletes' brains for indicators of a neurodegenerative condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE arises from accumulation of Tau protein, which normally stabilize the neural microtubules. The pathology of CTE is highly similar to other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, more commonly known as prion diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Creutzfelt-Jakob disease, and as such sufferers of CTE experience symptoms of dimentia such as memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression. These symptoms may appear within months of the trauma or many months later. So far, of the 12 of the 321 brains of NFL players who died between February 2008 and June 2010 inspected by medical examiners at the VA medical center, all 12 have shown unmistakable signs of CTE.

As science erodes long-accepted dogma and conventional wisdom, there exists a moral imperative on the behalf of society to replace their antiquated beliefs with verifiable fact-based theories. This is no less true of the NFL who, in order to make amends for their past transgressions, must redouble its feeble efforts to ensure the safety of its players and the millions of young kids who seek to emulate them. Recent reforms to its player post-concussion protocol is a excellent first step, but much more must be done to ensure that America's Game will continue to flourish as America's citizens become increasingly aware of the health risks that football poses for their children.

Posted by Connor Finnerty (2)

4 comments:

  1. With football being such a rough and tumble sport, I always knew that there were many halth risks to the players. However, I did not realize that they were to the extent of later psychological problems. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy(CTE) is a very serious condition. I think that it is only right that extensive research is done to find out more on the disease and ways to help prevent it so no more football players, such as Dave Duerson, have to suffer through the devastating disease.

    Teryn McCook (2)

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  2. Football is a very rough sport and many brain injuries are associated with it. Collision between two people with high momentum is responsible for so may injuries and also some people lost thier lives because of it. I think authorities should come up with some solution for this particular problem.

    by Ammar Zafar

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  3. Amar,

    Yes, football is an incredibly dangerous sport. In fact, many of the improvements to protective equipment have allowed players to hit much harder and with much greater velocity, resulting in many more concussions. Improvements to mouth guards and helmets, such as the Revolution anti-concussion helmet, are helping to combat the issue, but the NCAA and NFL have been pathetically weak in enforcing players to wear their safety gear. The fact that many NFL athletes refuse to wear the Revolution helmet, including it's most recognizable player, Tom Brady, also doesn't help much.

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  4. Teryn,

    One of the largest obstacles to the research is the fact that the NFL really doesn't care about what neurologists have to say concerning their players' health. For years, former commissioner Tagliabue did everything in his power to obfuscate concussion research. Now that one of the critical points in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners is the impending increase of the regular season schedule to 18 games, conferring even more punishment upon the players' bodies, the NFL has even more reason not to care.

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