The Hidden Monster Inside Their Heads
The increase in overall injuries during the 2017 NFL Season over the previous ones has been alarming. But there is a specific type of injury that’s been haunting the league for years and might bring about its demise. The dreaded concussion and what it does to people has been a hot topic of conversation and the connection between football and the infamous head injury has become nearly irrefutable.
The New York Times has done its own investigation into the research on CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and what it found is scary and astounding. Dr. Ann McKee has been analyzing the brains of deceased athletes including many from the NFL. Of 202 brains, 111 were from the NFL. But the most alarming thing was that, out of 111 brains from NFL players, 110 of them showed evidence of CTE. In fact, according to the Times article, the minimum CTE prevalence in NFL players is 9%, much higher than that of the general population.
Now, even more alarming about this is the fact that CTE was detected in brains of players from every position, showing that no matter what, you will likely suffer from CTE if you play football, regardless of your position. The symptoms of CTE itself are enough to frighten anyone: memory loss, confusion, dementia, depression, and it has even led some to kill others or themselves. Simply put, it’s a frightening disease whose development in brains has been directly linked to football.
So what does this mean for the future of the NFL? Well sadly, it probably doesn’t mean much. The NFL is insanely rich and it would likely require political intervention in order to quickly fold. The other option is that everyone just stops playing football cold-turkey, which we all know isn’t going to happen at the snap of a finger. The fact of the matter is that the majority of players in the NFL come from poor families, which means that they are willing to risk their long-term mental health in order to help provide for their families in the short-term.
So the issue now becomes where we go from here. How can we change the game of football to help protect its players from this, or is that even possible? There is one thing that is certain though: In Dr. McKee’s words, “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football—there is a problem.”