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CTE and Brain Damage in the NFL

Connor McCambridge, '19, Staff Writer

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As the frequency of studies examining brain injury in recent years has increased, it has become clear that football is unquestionably a risky sport to partake in. Even with rule changes in the
NFL attempting to protect players from injury, there are still countless concussions each year, many of which inflict permanent damage on the sufferers’ brains. The 2015 film “Concussion” starring Will Smith brought significant awareness to this problem, detailing one of the first studies that revealed the horrifying effects a career in football can have on the brain.

More recent studies have made the worries for players even higher. A neuropathologist examined 202 brains of dead former football players. 111 of those played in the NFL, and 110 of the 111 showed clear signs of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This disease is crippling, and it is caused by repeated blows to the head. Memory loss, depression, and dementia are just a few of the many symptoms of this disease that seemingly almost all former NFL players have acquired.

This new information has present- ed a dilemma for football players every- where: Is playing the sport you love really worth suffering later in life? This problem is especially serious for current NFL players, as football is the way they earn their living. Many have commented recently on this issue, such as Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who expressed dis- tress over the subject, saying “I would be lying if I said I didn’t get nervous about that stat. But this game, I just love it so much.” Others, such as Browns lineman Joe Thomas, have decided to ignore the is- sue, Thomas saying “I’m not worried about it right now.” This is especially troubling, considering that Thomas reported in April that he is already experiencing occasional memory loss. NFL players must take notice if they begin experiencing symptoms of CTE, considering the cases of former players such as linebacker Junior Seau. Seau was depressed and committed suicide in 2012; the autopsy showed that he had CTE, even though he had never been diagnosed with a concus- sion in his playing career. CTE is a serious disease, and the decision to play football will become even
more difficult as data on the disease becomes more readily available.

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CTE and Brain Damage in the NFL