In light of the legendary LB Junior Seau's suicide, the debate over numerous concussions & the side effects as a result of it later in life seems to have regained some fresh momentum again. Repeated trauma on the brain has led to a neurological diagnosis of CTE among the medical community. What exactly is this condition?
CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920s. However, recent reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE in retired professional football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement. The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, sensitivity to bright lights, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, .depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia. Clinically, CTE is associated with memory disturbances, behavioral and personality changes, Parkinsonism, and speech and gait abnormalities. X-rays of deceased boxer & football players brains typically show " a mild yellow-brown discoloration in the leptomeninges over the temporal poles." See image found below:
CTE seems to be characterized by short term memory loss, depression, & a lack of impulse control caused by incessant blows to the head over a prolonged period of time. No known cure exists for this debilitating condition at this time.
Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall for the Chicago Bears recently published a article in the Chicago Sun Times on May 5, 2012 about the death of Junior Seau & how men are conditioned since birth to not display any emotions of fear, concern, or pain.
According to Marshall, "Li’l Johnny is outside playing and falls. His dad tells him to get up and be strong, to stop crying because men don’t cry...We are teaching our boys not to show weakness or share any feelings or emotions, other than to be strong and tough."
What do we do when Li’l Susie falls? We say: ‘‘It’s OK. I’m here. Let me pick you up.’’ That’s very validating, and it’s teaching our girls that expressing emotions is OK. We wonder why
it’s so hard to bridge the communication gap between men and women."
Can you imagine how this presents itself even more so in football players? "In sports, those who show they are hurt or have mental weakness or pain are told: ‘‘You’re not tough. You’re not a man. That’s not how the players before you did it...So your perception of a man or player gets distorted.’’
Brandon Marshall's over simplification of "male toughness" notwithstanding; His argument does carry some merit. You can't expect gridiron gladiators to simply flip the civilian switch when their professional playing days are over & done. They were paid handsomely for their aggression & now they are expected to integrate into peaceful society without therapy & mental help? A tall order indeed that often leads to self inflicted tragedy or bankruptcy for many household name athletes. Drug addiction to Human Growth Hormones & pain killers often surfaces with tragic results too for several NFL greats too.
New helmet advancements & CBA rule enhancements about safety are not enough. Cut through the red tape Commissioner Goodell & allow all former NFL players the physical & psychological help they desperately need without having to hire a lawyer to get the mandatory medical attention these players legitimately earned through years of blood, sweat, & hard work.