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CTE, Player Toughness, & the Fate Of The NFL

southwest1

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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:

John-Grimsley.jpg

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.

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It's a troubling situation indeed. I don't think advanced helmets are the answer for a few reasons;

1) they do not stop or prevent the brain from internally hitting the skull during a hard impact. It does prevent the outside object from an external injury, but what people seem to be missing is that the brain also impacts the inside of the skull on a hard hit, and this can go forward and backward until it comes to rest and this can cause extensive injury.

2) So it's the nature of the hit itself, not just the outward protection that needs reviewed and altered. I think the helmet advancements just make guys want to throw themselves even harder at their opponent.

It would also help if players themselves would play the game right, and not make unusual or launched hits with the sole purpose of earning a bounty or some other personal gain not related to the game or stats. This has added a dangerous dimension to the game that needs to be removed entirely. If not for safety, then out of respect for ones colleagues.

I certainly hope research continues and that those who may suffer from injuries do come forward and seek help and treatment. It will be very important to see what comes to light with regards to high school sports and youth sports.

Could go on for days on this topic, but go for now.

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Great post. Player safety......to the extent it can be accomplished should be the goal.

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It's a troubling situation indeed. I don't think advanced helmets are the answer for a few reasons;

1) they do not stop or prevent the brain from internally hitting the skull during a hard impact. It does prevent the outside object from an external injury, but what people seem to be missing is that the brain also impacts the inside of the skull on a hard hit, and this can go forward and backward until it comes to rest and this can cause extensive injury.

2) So it's the nature of the hit itself, not just the outward protection that needs reviewed and altered. I think the helmet advancements just make guys want to throw themselves even harder at their opponent.

It would also help if players themselves would play the game right, and not make unusual or launched hits with the sole purpose of earning a bounty or some other personal gain not related to the game or stats. This has added a dangerous dimension to the game that needs to be removed entirely. If not for safety, then out of respect for ones colleagues.

I certainly hope research continues and that those who may suffer from injuries do come forward and seek help and treatment. It will be very important to see what comes to light with regards to high school sports and youth sports.

Could go on for days on this topic, but go for now.

You made some great points there MCF. Yes, a concussion is still have having a player's brain slam into the skull & no helmet will ever prevent that from happening that's true & high school & pee wee football leagues must teach younger players the proper way to tackle or take down someone without using the helmet, shoulder, or arm as a battering ram or lethal weapon. New rules are adopted or modified every year in the NFL. Everyone must learn to adapt & flow with the changes.

The other dilemma is that players are well compensated to "unleash pain & instill chaos." If you don't make the tackle, stop, or impress the coaching staff, you get cut from the roster & no nice game check anymore. If you get hurt & sit on the bench for too long, the next man up at that position strolls in & takes your spot. For that reason alone, players often lie about dizziness, concussions, or the true state of their physical & emotional condition. How does the NFL break this vicious cycle when they directly profit from the sale of NFL DVDs about the best hits? I don't have an answer here either MCF.

You are an exceptionally bright woman MIColtsFan & I really enjoy debating a variety of topics with you. Thank you. I love women who love football especially defense!!! You're A Okay in my book MCF.

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Great post. Player safety......to the extent it can be accomplished should be the goal.

Thank you Maureen for your kind words about my CTE blog. I seldom have concrete answers on topics, but I do realize that proper change often starts with asking the right questions. If enough people ask the same questions, positive change usually follows for the eventual benefit of everyone down the road. There can be a balance between profit & safety where everybody wins from the fan, to the player, to NFL headquarters IMO.

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Great Blog, SW1 Kudos.

Thanks Gramz. I really respect your opinion. I am glad you enjoyed reading it. You always manage to keep me balanced & upbeat overall. I really appreciate that.

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Nice blog SW! This is a pattern and a condition that has bothered me for a while now, and I'm glad someone finally brought it up. Brandon Marshall brings up a good point (which you highlighted and I think that was so important)--men are taught from a very young age that they are not to show emotion of any kind because if you do you are considered weak. How sad is our society that we put that pressure on our kids? Crying is not weakness. Admitting you are injured or something hurts is not a weakness. (sometimes) Being cautious is not a weakness. [*Granted, there is a difference between a woosie (sp?) and being strong enough to show emotion. Most all of us know where that line is.]

I also agree that help should be available to retired pro NFL players who struggle from this condition and other conditions caused from their playing days...by the same token, they should have to pay for the service just like any other normal citizen should...just my opinion. I don't make millions of dollars each year and if I get injured and my insurance doesn't cover the entire medical expenses, I have to pay the rest. So should our pro atheletes...fiscal management is big in my book. Now someone could use the argument that if I get injured at work, then workman's comp covers me. True, but then I am not in a profession where I know that I am risking my health each time I go to work. Injury and possible medical conditions are part of the contract when a football player chooses to play (esp in the NFL)...

Just my two cents buddy!! Like I said, nicely written!

Thanks!

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Nice blog SW! This is a pattern and a condition that has bothered me for a while now, and I'm glad someone finally brought it up. Brandon Marshall brings up a good point (which you highlighted and I think that was so important)--men are taught from a very young age that they are not to show emotion of any kind because if you do you are considered weak. How sad is our society that we put that pressure on our kids? Crying is not weakness. Admitting you are injured or something hurts is not a weakness. (sometimes) Being cautious is not a weakness. [*Granted, there is a difference between a woosie (sp?) and being strong enough to show emotion. Most all of us know where that line is.]

I also agree that help should be available to retired pro NFL players who struggle from this condition and other conditions caused from their playing days...by the same token, they should have to pay for the service just like any other normal citizen should...just my opinion. I don't make millions of dollars each year and if I get injured and my insurance doesn't cover the entire medical expenses, I have to pay the rest. So should our pro atheletes...fiscal management is big in my book. Now someone could use the argument that if I get injured at work, then workman's comp covers me. True, but then I am not in a profession where I know that I am risking my health each time I go to work. Injury and possible medical conditions are part of the contract when a football player chooses to play (esp in the NFL)...

Just my two cents buddy!! Like I said, nicely written!

Thanks!

Thank you CP11 for you kind words about my CTE blog. I value all my Colts Forum friends opinions & I really appreciate your profound thoughts on the subject matter of physical toughness & a person's mental wellbeing. Crying can be extremely healthy for men. Keep anxieties, fears, & frustrations bottled up & buried deep inside your psyche can lead over time to feelings of despair, helplessness, & sometimes tragically suicide. This outdated theory of Machoism needs to change & gradually overtime I think it will as people acquire more knowledge about depression & how to counteract the symptoms.

The debate on NFL insurance coverage among retired NFL players is an interesting one. There are 2 schools of thought here. 1 camp says considering how all former players made this game great, pushed for more player rights/higher take home compensation, & played in different eras where racism was rampant & safety wasn't a top league priority no former player should be asked to contribute any money out of their pocket. Why even have a CBA or players union then?

The other camp says if everyone contributes something out of their own pocket, it reduces the overhead costs & fees on everyone else. States require everyone to buy car insurance without exception. No one gets a "free pass" there. Perhaps, a fee scale can be implemented based on your income level & people certain outside percentages on their overall bill. The problem with this idea is what if a former NFL player is financially bankrupt. What do you do then?

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Ahhh I like the points you bring up regarding health care for retired pros.

My thought and feeling on this leans to the second option you stated. Again, if I have to pay for mine, they should have to pay for theirs.

In regards to if they are bankrupt...well this is going to sound harsh, but they should have managed their money better shouldn't they? If I was injured and I was bankrupt isn't that what people would tell me? I believe the thing to remember is this: they are still ordinary people just like us. They too have to be responsible adults and be able to figure out hard situations such as this...it's part of life isn't it?

Thoughts?

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Ahhh I like the points you bring up regarding health care for retired pros. My thought and feeling on this leans to the second option you stated. Again, if I have to pay for mine, they should have to pay for theirs. In regards to if they are bankrupt...well this is going to sound harsh, but they should have managed their money better shouldn't they? If I was injured and I was bankrupt isn't that what people would tell me? I believe the thing to remember is this: they are still ordinary people just like us. They too have to be responsible adults and be able to figure out hard situations such as this...it's part of life isn't it? Thoughts?

You are a deep & provocative thinker my friend & I really admire that character trait in you & all my forum friends. Yes, personal responsibility is crucial to a player's financial security after their NFL career is over.

However, anyone can fall prey to fraud & deception even among their most trusted advisors & consultants. Also, what if repeated concussions or head trauma makes a retired player susceptible to easy manipulation, influence, & coercion? There is a huge difference between reckless, lavish spending & diminished mental capacity & overall awareness. Often times, players with brain trauma are taken advantage of, broke, & can't get access to the real help that they need. Yes, you can't save everybody & some people do indeed fall through the cracks I know, but does any safety net exist for these broken down players?

I don't have any concrete answers, but I am fond of asking questions. Nice discussion as always CP11.

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You are a deep & provocative thinker my friend & I really admire that character trait in you & all my forum friends. Yes, personal responsibility is crucial to a player's financial security after their NFL career is over.

However, anyone can fall prey to fraud & deception even among their most trusted advisors & consultants. Also, what if repeated concussions or head trauma makes a retired player susceptible to easy manipulation, influence, & coercion? There is a huge difference between reckless, lavish spending & diminished mental capacity & overall awareness. Often times, players with brain trauma are taken advantage of, broke, & can't get access to the real help that they need. Yes, you can't save everybody & some people do indeed fall through the cracks I know, but does any safety net exist for these broken down players?

I don't have any concrete answers, but I am fond of asking questions. Nice discussion as always CP11.

My friend you have a very valid point. In some situations said individuals are slightly diminished in capacity and are taken advantage of. And I do agree with you that there should be a "safety net" of sorts for these individuals. The problem will lie in if such a safety net is created there will be individuals who abuse it...it always happens (ex: welfare and social security disability). So, the trick would be to create a program that helps those who need to be helped but does not allow others to abuse it...and of course it would have to use NFL funds and not the public's. :)

I always like discussing with you my friend :)

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