The NFL Needs to do Something About CTE Before It Kills Football

 Roger Goodell has not been known for his popularity with the players, alumni, or fans. With the new report on CTE, what is Goodell's next step?

Roger Goodell has not been known for his popularity with the players, alumni, or fans. With the new report on CTE, what is Goodell's next step?

Roger Goodell is standing in front of the firing line once again known as CTE.  An ESPN report came out earlier today showing that about 90 percent of football players who donated their brains and were tested were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.  CTE is a disease that oftentimes occurs after repetitive blows to the head which release tau protein into the brain.  From there, the tau protein basically eat away the tissue of the brain, causing people over time to become confused, slip into depression, or become insane.  There have been studies done to attempt to diagnose CTE while a player or former player is still alive, but none have proven to be a reliable source to diagnose CTE before death.  Therefore, CTE can only be diagnosed after the person dies, which then means no treatment has been developed for it.

CTE is infamously used to explain why so many former football players, more specifically NFL players, have brain damage in their life after football.  It has also been found in cases of boxers, wrestlers, and even soldiers, but has caught steam in the last 15 years in the NFL after Dr. Bennet Omalu found the first official case in an NFL player in the death of Hall of Fame center Mike Webster.  It has also been found to be the cause of depression and crippling mental health in the deaths of Dave Duerson, Frank Gifford, Junior Seau, Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler, Andre Waters and at least 20 other NFL players since the first discovery of CTE in NFL players in 2002.

Here are the findings that were reported by ESPN:

CTE was diagnosed in 177 (of 202) former players -- nearly 90 percent of brains studied. That includes 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players; 48 of 53 college players; nine of 14 semi-professional players; seven of eight Canadian Football League players; and three of 14 high school players. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players.

To continue with those facts, the average age of death of all 202 former football players in the study was just 66 years of age.  The age group that blew me away were the 3 out of 14 high school players that were diagnosed with CTE.  Three of Fourteen!  Now, I understand that this is a ridiculously small portion of high school football players in the country, but that is an incredible 21% of players 18 years old or younger.  I am 18 years old, and am going to college in three and a half weeks.  Three people just like me, who played high school football, died before they got to go to college and were being destroyed by the chemical issues occurring in their brain.  There is not a pleasant way to view that, and there is definitely no way you can rationalize it.

So, now that the study comes out, what comes next?  To be fair, the brains were collected from the Boston brain bank who specify in studying CTE in former football players who have died, and it was suspected that each brain studied had CTE due to the symptoms the player possessed near the end of their lives.  Regardless, this is alarming!  The NFL has been under fire because of this issue since the first diagnosis and has forfeited over $1 billion to former players who have suffered from memory loss, depression, and other mental disorders after their playing career. 

Obviously, the prevention of head injuries starts with the coaching on a youth and high school level.  But the NFL has had the national spotlight on them when it comes to anything football, especially when it comes to addressing injuries.  Yes, targeting and blows to the head have been mostly banned in the NFL, along with new helmets that have been developed to focus on decreasing the amount of concussions in football.  But, in the case of Patient Zero, Mike Webster, it was not the "big hits" that destroyed his mental state of mind.  It was the small, repetitive blows that the center received every snap that caused CTE to infect his brain cells.  The continuing development and research on CTE is disturbing, but right now it is the way of life for football players.  Adam Schefter on Sportscenter earlier today put it in a blatantly honest and accurate way: there is and always will be a risk with playing football.

I also understand that Mike Webster, along with all other players who have died with CTE in their brains, played in a time where helmets were a lot less protective than they are now.  However, the fact that the headlines about CTE are still coming to haunt the NFL may cause an ultimate downfall of the sport.  And the fact that 110 of 111 NFL players were diagnosed with CTE in the most recent study on the disease puts pressure on the NFL to do something, to do more than what they have been trying to do.  Do I know the answer as to how the NFL can reduce CTE or possibly contribute to cure it?  Hell no!  However, if something drastic is not done by the NFL (and done soon), some great athletes will realize football is not worth the risk, which could lead to the end of football as we know it.

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