Kaleb wonders to what degree we, as Americans, are willing to sacrifice our young men’s lives for the National Football League.
I heard the news of another former NFLer, Junior Seau, dying of what is presumed to be self-inflected gunshot wound yesterday. Immediately my heart sank, because I knew it probably wasn’t an accident. In the past year alone, 3 NFL players with severe brain trauma have shot themselves. Last year, the NYTimes did a Pulitzer-worthy three part series, A Boy Learns To Brawl, on the life of Derek Boogaard, an NHL enforcer for the Rangers, who tragically took his own life at the age of 28 with a combination of painkillers and alcohol. He too, was posthumously diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Although the NFL has a larger CTE problem, because it appears the only hockey players who suffer CPE are enforcers, whose main job is to fight, that article fundamentally changed my view on CPE.
Something’s gotta give. It’s that simple. Young men are dying in droves, and regardless of how much they are paid, it is not right. We are very literally watching slow gladiatorial matches unfold before our very eyes, and we as the fans, must start paying attention. It’s time to push the NFL to start using some of its huge revenues for research on how to change the game. I don’t mean casual rule amendments; I mean real, empirical studies on what can be done to prevent repeated brain trauma. I for one think that discarding hard shell helmets is a place to start. They offer little protection to the wearer and encourage helmet to helmet hits. Giving players thick foam helmets will discourage players from leading with their heads. And if it becomes obvious that football as a sport is inexorably linked to CPE, its time to think about disbandment of the NFL.
AP photo/Sandy Huffaker