Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brain disease, injury and football

Someone I know one who likened football to bulls crashing into each other…and nothing more.  She cannot see, and subsequently she cannot appreciate, the beauty and strategy of the offensive and defensive matchups; she only sees the violence. 

As for me, I recognize the power, speed, impact, and the tactical science and art of the game.   I love football.  But, the thought of someone suffering permanent brain injury for the rest of his life because of it is ridiculous to me.    

Following this month’s tragic murder-suicide involving a Kansas City Chiefs Jovan Belcher linebacker, the issue of brain trauma, concussions and pro football is back in the headlines. 
Let’s face it, football players take blows to the head in practice and in game situations all the time. And, medical professionals will tell you that you don’t have to lose consciousness to have experienced head trauma or brain injuries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a concussion causes chemical changes in one’s brain.   That jolt to the head “can change the way your brain normally works.”  The Atlanta-based health organization also states it can lead to changes in mood and behavior.
Do brain injuries trigger violent reactions leading to arguments, physical altercations and more serious and deadly behaviors?  

There’s a new study on brain trauma and pro football out this month from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy  at the Boston University School of Medicine.  The center’s findings show that of 35 football players, mostly at the professional level, whose brain tissue was examined posthumously—all but one showed evidence of brain disease. 
The findings also show problems begin when repeated blows to the brain are not allowed to heal, and with each blow after that, the damage gets worse.  In its later stages, that, according to the study, can lead to rage, aggression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts. 

I don’t think society needs to rid itself of football.  The NFL is doing all it can, some say too much, to minimize head and helmet hits to defenseless players in hopes of reducing concussions.  
But, this whole “play through the pain” business that some players advocate is absurd; at its least, and dangerous, at its worst.  There’s more at stake here than playing hurt; it’s about injury and possibly death.  It’s also about the violence and aggression in players off the field. 
Of this I feel certain, without a properly functioning brain, a person is a detriment to himself or herself and those around them.   

Wise up…money is important, no doubt.  But, NO AMOUNT OF MONEY is worth a brain injury.  In this life, all you really have are your name and reputation. And without good health and a properly functioning brain, neither will amount to much of anything.   
So, what is the answer here?  I wish I knew.  But, I do know that I get just as much of a thrill seeing a good “hit” in a football game as I do seeing a 90-yard punt or kickoff return.  I know that a couple of concussions don’t always lead to brain disease, and that there are plenty of reasons people commit murder-suicide.   I also know that like all fans, I’ll continue to watch and cheer on the game, until someone comes up with a solution.

Copyright  2012 Artis Media Group   All rights reserved. 

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