NFL Brain Trauma – FootballWednesday, June 13, 2012 21:34
Fact and fiction in regards to football-related brain trauma.
NFL BRAIN TRAUMA
For over 25 years collision sport team owners have known or should have known subjecting, indeed encouraging, their players to fight on the ice or ram helmets on the football field could lead to significant neurological debilitation.
The problem has been scientifically investigated; the cause has been scientifically proven: Concussions caused by acute blows to the skull are as serious as sub-concussive collisions–i.e. linemen knocking heads on every play. The resulting head trauma often leads to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, (CTE).
We know this because the brains of former NFLers Justin Strelzyk, Chris Henry, Andre Waters, Dave Duerson, and Mike Webster, among many others, all look the same under a coroner’s microscope.
Doctors say the brain of an affected player is so badly damaged its synapses simply stop firing and the organ becomes what amounts to badly stained mush.
The victims of this horrible condition were once said to be suffering from “punch drunk syndrome.” The most famous and visible poster child for this syndrome has been Muhammed Ali. It is well known the greatest boxer in history earned that status not only from lighting fast feet and hands–and sneaky good power–but also from having one of the strongest chins in the game.
That means even after opponents like Joe Frazier and George Foreman repeatedly smashed Ali’s brain into the back of his skull, Ali would get back up for more.
And he did it for over 25 years…
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984; those who have suffered repeated head trauma are much more susceptible to Parkinson’s and related symptoms than the general population.
Maybe that’s why doctors have been trying to ban boxing since 1955.
Today, he can barely talk, but if you ask Ali if he would do it all over again, knowing he would end up a quivering shell of his former self, I’m betting 500-1 he’d give you that smile and nod his head.
Would Mike Webster give back his four Super Bowl rings?
Would Dave Duerson revoke his membership in one of the greatest defenses the NFL has ever known?
You know what the answer is. The mentality behind that answer is best summed up in this quote regarding how concussion symptoms are dealt with in sports:
“I think that we were blind to what was going on around us because, yes, it was about the team. It was about the winning…it was almost like a routine of, like I said, an awful lot of practices and you just went through it and really your lives rolled by with [the game] being the most important thing,”
The above quote is courtesy of a soccer father about his 14 year-old daughters repeated concussions due to heading a soccer ball.
The same mentality, until very recently, was inherent in professional sports–especially the NFL.
So, who do we blame for the NFL’s current mess?
Videos of NFL alumni, along with written accounts of former players like Terry Long and John Mackey detail what repeated concussions or much less dramatic “sub-concussive” collisions do to the human brain–the same trauma found in the brain of this eighteen year-old football player:
Should we blame the NFL players for using their helmets to tackle, i.e. spearing, or targeting an opponent’s head as part of tackling technique?
Spearing has been illegal in pro football for over 30 years. The NFL had seldom thrown a penalty flag until Roger Goodell and his staff saw their desks suddenly flooded with thick piles of lawsuits accusing the world’s most successful sports league of either neglecting to insure player safety or knowing about the toll the game takes on the human brain, but hiding it from the players.
If Roger Goodell were a mythological deity, he’d no doubt, be Janus who, in Roman mythology, is the god of beginnings, endings, transitions and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past.
I think the two-faced part fits Roger Goodell best.
- He touts an 18-game season, while yammering about player safety being the “leagues number one priority.”
- He seems genuinely concerned about concussed receivers and quarterbacks–not so much about the damage linemen or running back inflict with their helmets on every play of every game–not to mention practice.
- He blusters about accountability while suspending Ben Roethlisberger four games for having sex, yet, when Saints players ask Goodell for specific proof of bounties in the Bayou, Goodell refuses to show he’s accountable.
I could ramble on about Goodell and those who employ him for a few more paragraphs, but they are not the only responsible parties for the crisis facing the NFL.
What is the deal with the players?
- Shouldn’t the NFLPA funding its own research into safer helmets–and insisting players wear them–no matter how uncool they look?
- The NFL wants to make it mandatory for players to wear hip, knee, and thigh pads. In lieu of a simple “thank you” the player’s union wants collective bargaining concessions in return.
- Shouldn’t the players be insisting on immediate HGH testing, or should we just wait for the day when a 255 lb 6’2″ safety–who runs a 4.3 forty, vertical jumps 38″, and benches 225 thirty times–literally decapitates a wide receiver?
I wonder how many hits that would get on YouTube.
SMASHED CHICKENS OR SCRAMBLED EGGS
Speaking of YouTube…
Do little boys at the Pee-Wee level take their cues on how American football should be played from their NFL “heroes” or are our sons, nephews, and neighbors being taught by irresponsible fathers who fantasize they know how to coach football?
It is clear, at least in YouTube videos, from Pop Warner to the NFL, players are taught to use the head as a weapon and to target the head when tackling.
Here are some brief samples of what some irresponsible coaches teach 6-8 year-olds:
Yes, those are parents howling like dogs in heat. Notice how nobody corrects the kid on the dangers of head hunting or tackling head first.
“Light him up! Light him up!” CRACK!!! “Ohhhh…wohh ho ho!!!”
The CRACKS you heard in the above videos resulted from helmet-to-helmet contact.
Did any of these coaches instruct the kids that their technique stinks?
I’m thinkin’ not. In fact, the many of these videos are posted by parents as a means of showcasing their son’s talents to coaches at the next level.
Of course, their son’s welfare is the overriding motivation–surely these parents aren’t thinking of a potential six or seven figure NFL contract…Right?
When fooball players get to be 11 years old, some coaches prove they have never grown up. In fact they wildly celebrate use of the head.
Given such accepted questionable coaching, should we be surprised when our sons tackle like this when they get to college?
The media doesn’t help. Note the announcer seemingly rushing to say ‘it was a clean hit.” If he meant a clean hit to the ear-hole by a head hunting tackler, he was right.
If your son plays from age six thru college, he will have played 15+ years of organized football–bangin’ heads, goin’ for the kill shot, or as a target for someone elses kill shot. If he gets to the pros he will be competing against the strongest, fastest athletes in the world–most of whom are on HGH–and tackle or be tackled like this:
Thru the Pop Warner gridiron to the NFL, football players too often use their head to tackle or target their opponents head when tackling–at least half the hits in the above NFL video prove the point.
Bodies layin’ on the floor…I must a killed ‘em…killed ‘em
Why do you think we celebrate such brutality?
I’ll answer that question by taking a personal look in the mirror.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me proud the Pittsburgh Steelers are prominently featured in NFL “Greatest Hits” videos–before Goodell yanked them off NFL.com.
I love being identified with one of the toughest teams in NFL history.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I howled like a wolf when my son blocked an opponent into the ground during his high school games.
I always wanted my son to be tough.
My boys and I did shots after the big Ryan Clark hits on McGahee and Welker.
My mom is 81 years-old. I’m still mad at her for not allowing me to play football because of my asthma.
I guess I’m not that much different than Roger Goodell.
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