Michael Kasdan discusses the breaking evidence showing that the extent of football’s link to brain trauma is serious and far worse than expected.
A few weeks ago, in this very space, I wrote that “Perhaps its a failure of imagination, but I cannot at this point imagine pro football wilting and withering away.” But I also said that “I do feel that we are beginning to grapple with, think about, and discuss the troubling issues of health and safety, violence and misconduct, and their connection to the NFL more so than ever before. Who knows where that discussion and exploration may one day lead.” Thanks for the segue.
Because on the issue of health and safety, we’re going to start having that discussion now and its a serious one.
The NFL’s concussion problem just got worse. A lot worse.
Today, PBS Frontline released new data in its analysis of medical records of retired NFL players:
As the NFL nears an end to its long-running legal battle over concussions, new data from the nation’s largest brain bank focused on traumatic brain injury has found evidence of a degenerative brain disease in 76 of the 79 former players it’s examined.
The findings represent a more than twofold increase in the number of cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, that have been reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository in Bedford, Mass.
Researchers there have now examined the brain tissue of 128 football players who, before their deaths, played the game professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school. Of that sample, 101 players, or just under 80 percent, tested positive for CTE.Don’t like ads? Become a supporter and enjoy The Good Men Project ad free
The report acknowledged that the data is skewed, because testing may only be performed posthumously and many of the players who have donated their brains for research suspected that they may have had CTE while still alive. However, doctors connected with the study expressed their strong view that this data clearly shows a link: “playing football, and the higher the level you play football and the longer you play football, the higher your risk.”
Among the players who were found to have CTE were former Chicago Bears safety, Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in 2011, and KC Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot and killed his girlfriend before committing suicide at the Chiefs practice facility in 2012.
This is the latest in the ongoing NFL concussion saga. As we’ve previously discussed:
For many years, the NFL has obfuscated and sought to sweep this problem under the rug. While disturbing, this is not so surprising. I had always considered the concussion issue the most difficult issue for the NFL to deal with. If they admit that the game is unsafe and they knew it, it puts the whole game at risk. All of it.
Just a few weeks ago, another disturbing story broke on the NFL’s other high profile problem: concussions and the overall safety of the game. The big news? According to the NFL’s own estimates in their class action lawsuit against former players who had sued the league, alleging that the NFL had hidden the dangers of concussions from them, almost 1/3 of players are expected to suffer from brain trauma. This is a number that shocks the conscious.
According to the report, an NFL spokesperson did not respond to several requests for comment.
But the mounting evidence cannot be ignored. And the ethics of playing – and watching – this game, has never been brought further into question.
The NFL can no longer be The League of Denial.
The question rapidly is becoming, can the NFL be anything at all?
For more Good Men Project Sports coverage of the recent issues coming out of the NFL, check out:
- Roger S. Goodell, Will You Please Go Now? (Sept. 22, 2014)
- The National Football League: Too Big To Fail? (Sept. 13, 2014)