By RACHEL BLOUNT, Star Tribune
New evidence discovered by the Sports Legacy Institute shows that the repetitive head trauma suffered by football players often results in a brain disease called CTE.
Sunday’s Super Bowl created some of the most indelible memories in the game’s recent history. Years from now, fans will be recalling Santonio Holmes’ balletic touchdown catch and James Harrison’s roaring 100-yard interception return.
Whether the players will remember is a different story. Early last week, while the Super Bowl hype machine cranked out its usual merriment, the Sports Legacy Institute held a small press conference in a quieter corner of Tampa, Fla. The group, dedicated to studying head injuries in sports, unveiled new evidence that NFL players are at risk of developing serious brain damage from the effects of repeated head trauma.
In one sense, this hardly seems like news. With ever bigger, faster players crashing into each other Sunday after Sunday, with fans clamoring for tooth-rattling hits they can replay on YouTube, semi-regulated violence remains the cornerstone of football’s allure. But as we learn more about the alarming toll the game takes on its players, the NFL has been slow to act — leaving it to guys like Chris Nowinski to ferret out the truth.
“People are not taking this seriously enough by a long shot,” said Nowinski, president of the Sports Legacy Institute. “Active players don’t want to talk about it. They have a short window of time to make money in the game, and they don’t want to think what happens to the brain when they run into a 300-pound man at 20 miles per hour. And the NFL’s research is borderline pathetic.
“Our ultimate goal would be for nobody to develop [the brain disease] CTE, to figure out how to prevent and treat it. Our initial goal is just to give people a choice. Nobody knew that multiple concussions would lead to this.”
CTE stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It used to be called dementia pugilistica, because it was primarily seen in boxers who had taken too many blows to the head.
I’m really happy to see people talking about this so frankly. I, myself, was one of those “jocks” in my youth who took a lot of hits and got up slowly afterwards… felt punchy and dull and foggy and “off”… but still had to get back in the game.
Now, years later, after lots of re-injury — thanks at least in part to my diminished risk-assessment skills — my life is harder going than it probably needs to be.
Everyone has problems, certainly, and I cannot use my injuries as an excuse to avoid living life to the best of my ability. But if you walk out in the rain without an umbrella, you can expect to get wet. And if the weather is cold and it’s flu season and you’re in the habit of shaking hands with sick people and then rubbing your eyes, getting sick is something you can reasonably expect to happen.
You can’t avoid every mishap on the face of the planet, but if you know that something has inherent dangers, it’s not unreasonable to seek to avoid it — or at least plan for what to do, in the event of a mishap.