It’s August, which means college and professional football is right around the corner. But with the recent study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is it possible that the death of football as we know it is on the horizon?
In case you missed the study, researchers revealed that CTE was found in 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research. CTE is a neurodegenerative brain disease that often presents itself in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head trauma. The disease is marked by a buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that disrupts critical neuropathways. This disruption can lead to a host of cognitive problems, including memory loss, impaired judgment, confusion, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and in some cases, suicidal behavior.
The Death of Football
The NFL acknowledged the results, and although they are taking steps to mitigate the trauma players receive on their head (for example, they are experimenting with new helmets that are designed to better protect players’ brains), it’s hard to see professional and collegiate football continuing in its current state for much longer. Because although not many players are quitting football due to the study results, there’s one group whose taking notes. Parents.
Personally, I love watching football, but I won’t let my kids play tackle. Now that we better understand concussion risk and we’re monitoring this data with helmet technology, we’re only going to hear more stories of players with CTE. The NFL thinks they are doing a great thing by developing better helmets that protect players’ brains from minor hits. It’s true that one or two minor hits won’t have much of an effect on the brain, but it’s the culmination of minor (and major) hits over a few years. These helmets allow players to take more minor hits, which still causes problems down the road.
We’ve actually this problem in the sport of boxing. New head guard technology has allowed light and middleweight boxers to absorb more punches per fight, but they’re still suffering from the effects of head trauma in their wonder years. It sounds like it’s against conventional wisdom to be against these new helmets that offer more protection for minor hits, but it’s not going to make a dent in the CTE numbers down the road. Sadly, it will likely take another generation of football players until we “discover” that.
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