The NFL’s Big Brain Injury Problem That We Don’t Give A Damn About » VSB

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The NFL’s Big Brain Injury Problem That We Don’t Give A Damn About

nfl hit$6 billion in revenues and a product that’s consistently the most watched show on television led me to believe the NFL was untouchable. Then came the study released to the public Friday September 12th by actuaries as a result of the proposed concussion settlement.

The actuaries expect 14% of all former players to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, about that many to develop other forms of dementia over the next 65 years and another 50 or so to develop ALS or Parkinson’s. That means that of the approximately 19,000 people that have played in the NFL, about 6,000 will develop a neurocognitive disorder. More jarring is the fact that these players are at two times the risk of the average person to develop Alzheimer’s, ALS, and dementia between the ages of 20-60.

After weeks of re-hashing the actions of a small handful of players, I kept waiting on the deluge of outrage over the fact that this game is irreparably damaging the brains of its employees. I never saw it lead any sports shows; never saw a business threaten to revoke its sponsorship, no national outcry for the NFL to “lead” on the subject of brain trauma (despite the actual connection to the product they produce).

This isn’t to downplay the justified anger over domestic violence in this country, or besmirch those attempting to have honest conversations about child rearing. But the high profile criminal acts of a few players have overshadowed a near criminal act each NFL player can fall victim to.

I’m not the only one that noticed this report. The settlement discussion that spawned the study is worth over $700 million for goodness sakes. But the release of this report and subsequent muted national response reminded me of this Deadspin article about the curious ESPN coverage of the chain of custody regarding the Ray Rice tape.

It seems an odd juxtaposition of interests to detest the off-the-field legal issues of a player but be unflinchingly indifferent at some of the awful consequences they face in their personal lives that will resonate with them for much longer then their NFL careers’ duration.

Alzheimer’s is a soulless and unrelenting disease. It takes the very essence of a person and renders it sickeningly silent. The happiness and highlights of the person’s past are stolen from them as the future is summarily erased to reveal only a bleak, blank slate. It’s a disease with a gun and mask that painfully steals the memories of the inflicted, and taints those of its victims’ friends and family. It kills a human from the inside out, destroying everything recognizable as a person while leaving their outward appearance untouched. It quite literally leaves a person a shell of their former selves. Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon openly talks about large gaps in his memory, and contemplation of suicide. Hall-of-fame running back Tony Dorsett has mentioned the fact that his kids are afraid of him, as he has begun to show signs of CTE; the same degenerative condition that led to safety Dave Duerson’s suicide. And the same degenerative condition that appeared in the brain of Jovan Belcher, the Kansas City Chief who murdered the mother of his child before killing himself.

How much money is worth breaking apart a family? Keep in mind, the vast majority of NFL players aren’t the private jet-owning, heavily endorsed superstars on TV. They are the ones with the short careers (average approximately 3.5 years) and unguaranteed contracts. And moreover, these players weren’t aware of the consequences. The information emerged as a result of the concussion settlement talks, the same settlement that resulted from the civil action between former players and the NFL; the one where the League itself disclaimed knowledge of the results of head trauma until relatively recently.

So what is there to do moving forward?

The NFL recently announced that concussions are down league-wide, presumably as a result of the rules changes implemented. Perhaps this will serve as the first step towards a safer product on the field. Of course, in light of recent NFL actions, it may be difficult to take the findings of an internal investigation at face value.

This should be a scary story. This should frighten people. The results surely frighten me. Have I cheered on a player as he endangered his mental health? Has a player irreparably harmed his future (and that of his family’s) as I delighted at the big hit? I’ve already made the decision that any child I may have won’t play the sport, but what of the cognitive dissonance of taking him to a football game? Now that the information is slowly coming out about football and head injuries, we all become culpable for our actions of support. There are no easy answers about our relationship to this violent and exhilarating game. But with a number attached to the lives in jeopardy after every kickoff, it’s feeling more and more uncomfortable to enjoy America’s most popular game.

Brenden Whitted

Although W. Brenden Whitted acquired a JD and Sports Certificate from Tulane University, he will always self-identity as a Howard Bison. You can hear him rant at www.thesportsshopradio.com or read his football analysis at catcrave.com.

  • TheOtherJerome

    Can’t understand why some parents allow their children to play Football. It seems….. negligent. Kids can’t live in a bubble of course and any kid that consistently plays sports will get injured. However, brain damage seems like to high a price to pay.

    CTE isn’t just caused by major concussions, it’s caused by the many hits a player takes to his head over his career that aren’t necessarily concussion inducing.

    When i read a variation of that above statement in an article, i realized that there is no way any son of mine would be allowed to play Football.

    • BlueWave1

      Agreed. The thing is there are many people who are still avid fans of the game, but won’t let their own sons play. That wil be the downfall of the league. The number of kids in the pipeline is dropping dramatically. It won’t show now. But in 20 years the league’s position will look very different.

    • Nick Peters

      Opportunity

    • As @disqus_eYn5UuFr06:disqus said, opportunity is why parents allow their kids to play. I can see why a lower class family would invest so much in their child if they had obvious talent in that area. It’s a sure fire way to make it to college for a chance to make it to the professional level which, in turn, affords one the opportunity to level up in tax brackets. Money might not fix everything but it sure as heck beats being in poverty.

      • Epsilonicus

        When you see and experience what these kids experience in poverty, I would make the same decisions too

        • Exactly. I do not knock these parents who see their kids as a way to make it out or even the kids themselves who see it as a golden ticket to help out their families. Having nothing is the best motivator there is.

          • Epsilonicus

            As Kanye says, “Having money not everything but not having it is”.

    • This is a question I used to ask on maybe the second or third date:

      (Strolling through the museum)
      Me: So what do you think of the post modern art here?.. Yeah, me too… So….. would you let your son play football?… Yeah?… Nice. Let’s just be friends.

      We can wreck our kids’ knees, but he’s gonna need that brain fully functioning.

      • The thing is that I’d let my daughter play football if she were so inclined. I figure that between the better training and her mom’s family being deep in the sports the risks aren’t much different than any other game.

        • Val

          “…risks aren’t much different than any other game”

          Yep.

          • Yes, watching Mike Jordan or Charles Barkley walk is just painful.

            • Val

              Ex-pro hockey players have it bad too. Hands, teeth, back problems, brain trauma. Yikes.

    • yeah, I said as much to my husband. I’m not really in favor of my kid playing football.

  • Meridian

    I’m just gonna wait for someone to make a summary comment. My attention span when I see “football” doesn’t exist.

  • SuperStrings

    What’s even more frightening is that many concussions are unreported or not diagnosed. It’s possible that any given player actually experiences multiple concussions in a single game. There’s no way to know how often a player gets hit and just shakes it off, so there’s no way to measure the impacts of those unreported concussions. There is also the fact that there is a fair amount of subjectivity to diagnosing a concussion. Aside from an actual brain scan, the diagnosis is based on hearing/vision testing and the answer to a series of questions.

  • Nick Peters

    They know the risks and get paid a lot of money…as an adult if players still choose to play that is there choice.

    Let’s be honest…football provides more economic opportunity for young black males than the black community provides for young black males…

    • Secret Sauce

      About 1 percent of all college and high school football players(we are talking kids who play in the FBS to NAIA) make the league, so I didn’t know how much of an economic opportunity football really provides for these athletes to risk long-term health consequences for a little less than three years of employment in the pros, especially when 75 percent of them are broke shortly after retirement.

      • Nick Peters

        A lot of students get academic opportunities, in college, that they never would of had or get jobs on coaching staffs after they leave school, or make connections that lead to employment with people they never would have met if they hadn’t gone to college or been in the NFL…

        – and the 3 year statistic counts for all drafted rookies and UDFA’s, if you are drafter than the average career length in 6 years

        • TheOtherJerome

          “A lot of students get academic opportunities……”

          Its a heck of a catch 22.

        • Secret Sauce

          Those athletes aren’t getting the same academic opportunities as every other student. Those athletes are in college to play football. That is why they have the scholarship in the first place. Academics are second, and many college programs treat it as such.

          • Nick Peters

            There are tens of thousands (conservatively) of people who took advantage of the academic opportunities and connections that college football gave them and now they have a standard of living that they would not of gotten because of their free education

            • Most college athletes aren’t getting free rides.

              • College ATHLETES, yes. College FOOTBALL players is a different story.

                • I mean I doubt the 4th and 5th string wrs, cbs, ol, dl, and special teamers are getting full rides. That’s the majority of the roster.

                  • Damon Young

                    On a D-1 football team, everyone aside from a couple walk-ons is full scholarship. Once you get down to D-2 and D-3, the numbers change.

                    • Question, have you seen the trend in D-I football players going down a conference to continue playing through their eligibility, and having a chance to still get scouted, when they get in trouble during their tenure in a D-I conference? My mother’s alma mater has become a football powerhouse in their D-II conference because they keep drawing in D-I players who have been fugging up.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      That’s always been the case. Just like you said somebody’s messed up or your realize you’re on the practice squad and will always be stuck their despite being Mr. Football in your state. Teams have built very successful programs doing this. *looking at WSSU*

                    • Epsilonicus

                      I wish my college could get that hook up lol

                    • That’s my mom’s alma mater lol WSSU beat some school 60+ points last week.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      Back in my day here’s how it went down

                      App St would get the VT players unless they were from Va Beach; those guys went to Hampton

                      WF guys (really rare) went to WSSU

                      A&T guys went to FSU

                      UNC / NCST guys went to NCCU

                    • I’ve seen more A&T guys head to Elizabeth City than FSU

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      ECSU got the Norfolk State players that couldn’t cut it after they moved up to IAA

                    • Coastal Carolina has become decent in many sports because when guys get kicked out of Clemson or Carolina they holler.

                    • O okay much appreciated.

                  • One of my friends played D-1 briefly in the mid to late 90’s and he got a half scholarship but South Carolina wasn’t getting donations like that back in the day. Today the Pell grants go to the other sports.

                  • Sigma_Since 93

                    Combo money; this is happening in lots of sports especially women’s sports. You get a half ride and combine it with grant money and you’ve got a “free ride”.

                    • That combo money is CLUTCH. Even though they didn’t officially count as full scholarships, they were taken care of.

              • Val

                No such thing as a free ride anyway.

              • Nick Peters

                But even a partial scholarship or an academic and athletic scholarship can mean the world of difference

          • Academics doesn’t count much for people nowadays in the economy we have, however, most athletes do not go on to play professionally, and it’s through scholarships and sports that they get their education.

          • I remember reading something in the Chronicle for Higher Education that the average college student is significantly smarter than the average college football player. In other words, it isn’t that football players are particularly dumb (since they tend to have average SAT and ACT scores) as much as the average student is bright. You’re right about academics being second, but the alternative isn’t better academics for many of these players, it’s NONE.

            I’m not endorsing the status quo as much as realizing that for a lot of people, it’s the one thing that allows them the funds to graduate or even show up in the first place. Plus we live in a world of decreasing state support for education being replaced by interest-bearing loans. I’m not begruding anyone’s chance to beat the system by any means necessary.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            It doesn’t matter if you’re on scholarship or not, if your sport is in season it dictates everything.

        • Very accurate. It’s been shown that college football players makes more money over time compared to your average graduate, and that’s true even if you take out the guys that go pro. The connections one makes in college football are golden, and the mindset needed to play transfers well into the world of business.

          • Never underestimate the powers of a clutch network. Ain’t no network to be had if you never had your foot in the door in the first place. Who you know > what you know.

        • A little more than half of college football players graduate. a full 45% don’t. The scholarship goes when their talent goes. And I’m still not sure that the subconcussive hits and brain damage that occur during collegiate football are worth the “alleged free education”. I’d rather those same kids earn scholarships and opportunities in other ways that are less risky and with less strings attached.

          • Nick Peters

            what are these opportunities, especially in economically deprived neighborhoods, where large amounts of kids come from single parent homes

    • #Nah.

      Football provides economic opportunities for a select few (which they often exchange for a shortened life span).

      Also, the NFL Players Association just released this data in the past couple months. The NFL buried a documentary on this whole issue on PBS versus ESPN as initially scheduled. So… who really knew? They certainly didn’t know when they were in a Pop Warner league twenty years ago.

      • Val

        That doc was on again just last week. Pretty amazing stuff. A whole lot of evidence of an NFL conspiracy to quiet people who had real info about brain injuries in the NFL. They really did that Black doctor wrong.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      No, no, no. You’re focusing on the first, second, and third round draft picks. Look at the other guys that may make $800K, pays an agent 20%, Uncle Sam another chunk for being in the top tax bracket, taxes for every state you play in, and your living situation. That money shrinks like hitting bankrupt in wheel of fortune.

      You also aren’t considering those who play ball at lower levels. All the practices, all the games, all the collisions. It makes me happy that my boys play golf.

      • Nick Peters

        – Ok and if you have a lower level job… lets say you make 300K for 5 years and you manage your money you can still leave football with tens of thousands of dollars in your bank.
        – After you leave you can almost walk into a job as a coach on any level of coaching from high school, college, or NFL because you have professional experience and college connections.
        – If you valued your education and graduated, know you have a degree, loan free, and can use your experience as a player directly in many fields (journalism) or as work experience as being on a team and a lot of companies, especially where you played, would ex excited to have an ex NFL player (from their team) to be working with them.

        • Epsilonicus

          300K still puts that player above over 90% of Americans in terms of yearly earnings.

          • Nick Peters

            which is my point the bottom NFL salary is like 265k

  • Val

    It seems opportunistic and somewhat disingenuous to discuss traumatic brain injury in the NFL and not discuss the danger of participating in sports overall. What about soccer or field hockey or la cross? Athletes in those sports are as likely to suffer traumatic brain injury as NFL players.

    What about auto racing, boxing, MMA, surfing, skateboarding, basketball, gymnastics, diving? Participants in all of these sports routinely suffer serious and many times chronic injuries.

    The question isn’t really just about the NFL. That’s just the easiest target at the moment. When boxing was more popular these same discussions were going on about that sport. The real question is how much is a society willing to let people risk to participate in dangerous sports or sports that can potentially be dangerous.

    Discussing just the NFL is kicking the can down the road. The discussion, if it is to be had, should be a more broad discussion about the ethics of sport in general. And, not just about possible injury but about the exploitation of athletes in general. Which of course will open not one but many cans of worms.

    • veryaveragebrotha

      “What about soccer or field hockey or la cross? Athletes in those sports are as likely to suffer traumatic brain injury as NFL players.”

      Sure, if we just ignore evidence or the lack thereof.
      To suggest that soccer players are as ‘likely’ as football players to suffer traumatic brain injury is ridiculous. 1 in 3 football players suffers from brain injury, by far the greatest number…the closest is boxing, which is 1 in 5.

      • The more you know

        • Val

          He doesn’t know. He just gets off on disagreeing.

          • lol

          • Wikipedia might not be an academic source but what he said makes more sense. Traumatic brain injuries in soccer are very rare.

            • Val

              You didn’t read the links either.

      • Val

        Welp, you are obviously better informed than scientists who’ve studied traumatic brain injury in soccer players vs football players.

        “CONCLUSION: Peak accelerations as measured at the surface of
        the head were 160 to 180% greater from heading a soccer ball than from
        routine (noninjurious) impacts during hockey or football, respectively.
        The effect of cumulative impacts at this level may lead to neurologic
        sequelae.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10823540

        ——————————————————————————–

        Soccer rivals football for concussion risks
        http://www.traumaticbraininjury.net/soccer-rivals-football-for-concussion-risks/

        ——————————————————————————–
        (CDC) Concussion in Sports and Play: Get the Facts
        http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/sports/facts.html

        • veryaveragebrotha

          you post a single paper comparing the theoretical effect of a very specific type of collision that actually occurs very rarely in the course of a soccer game as opposed to hits that occur on every single down. Secondly, this paper is measuring said collision in high school kids – the impact of a header does not increase significantly between high school soccer and professional soccer, because the size and mass of the ball remains the same – the impact of hits to the head varies DRASTICALLY between high school and professional football because of the increase in size and strength of the players.

          Again, ACTUAL analysis former players has shown that up to 1 in 3 football players suffer from traumatic encephalopathy while there has been NO SUCH correlation shown in soccer players.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_traumatic_encephalopathy#Other_athletes_diagnosed_with_CTE

          Football needs it’s own page:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NFL_players_with_chronic_traumatic_encephalopathy

          This discrepancy exists despite the fact that there are well over 15 million professional soccer players worldwide:

          http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/bcoffsurv/emaga_9384_10704.pdf

          Take your time explaining this discrepancy, I won’t be holding my breath though…

          • Val

            You didn’t check the links I posted. They include data on former soccer players. But, whatever, man. It’s boring going back and forth with you. So, take the win and happy Wednesday Oh, and wikipedia links? .

    • Field Hockey? I can see soccer, and definitely see lacrosse, since you have similar sized players doing similar moves as compared to football. But how does field hockey have a concussion problem? I’m not saying you’re wrong as much as I want to learn.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        those girls go at it Todd.

      • Val

        Hey, Todd. I saw a doc maybe a year ago about traumatic brain injuries in sports and I’m sure that they included field hockey. But, I can’t remember who the doc was by. So, I can’t back up the field hockey part of my statement.

        And happy birthday in advance. :-)

        • Why don’t women’s lacrosse players wear helmets?

          • Val

            I think some do.

            • Word. I know at one point they were only wearing some weird Scott Summers like visors.

            • Freebird

              on the high school level many still do not.

    • The reason this author and many others have focused on the NFL is because by far, the NFL is the most enjoyed, most popular, and most viewed (is that saying the same thing three times?) sport in the US. In many ways, it drives trends in the NCAA and even high school sports. Moreover, with the largest fan base, regular folks have more culpability in the brain injury and traumas suffered by NFL players than the smaller contingent that support say surfing or skateboarding. By watching MNF, Thursday Night Football, gambling in fantasy football leagues, and being obsessed with even the ADVERTISEMENTS during the Super Bowl, average folks like you and me play a role in supporting brain injuries and their shortened life expectancy. The other sports you mentioned… not so much. What’s that quote “Kill the head and the body will fall?” If we really want sports to become safer and minimize injuries, starting with the NFL makes the most sense.

      • Val

        Okay but that ignores how many people are participating, especially teens, in other sports that participants routinely suffer brain trauma.

        • By far, the most dangerous high school sport is football. Three high school players died playing last week. To influence high school football, it must start at the NFL. High school players are often striving for the NFL and look to that league for direction. By targeting the NFL, we DO help the most high school teens that routinely suffer brain trauma.

      • The argument that because something or someone is “popular or influential” that it is somehow subscribed to rules that others are not is simply elitism. Either it applies to all or it applies to none, such is fairness, such is justice – if you’re going to change the rule due to an injury, then it should be applicable to all injuries and all sports. In other words, boxing should pretty much be banned, or at least punches and uppercuts to the face should be banned…good luck with that.

        I do not like how the vultures and hyenas have come out of the woodwork since the NFL has had it’s PR crisis, and despite their lack of investment in the sport and it’s business are trying to dictate how the sport should be run and played, as though they somehow could create and maintain a billion plus industry on their own. These people are going to end up turning football into ice hockey, and then when no ones watching, and it’s pretty much professional flag football on MNF, they’re going to go back into the caves in silence, never taking credit for their utter destruction of the sport.

        It’s football, if you played the sport, you’d understand that the part of the sport that is the hitting that leads to the head damage, is unfortunately one of the most exciting things about the sport. And people would be doing it, regardless of if it was sanctioned in the NFL or not. Just because the rules change in the NBA doesn’t mean the rules change in Rucker Park. People who are non-invested in sports, think that it’s the professionals who determine how the game is played and they think cutting off the head of the snake will completely change the game…they’re wrong.

        • There’s also a bias against sports among the elite since the rise of the GI bill and the democratization of a college education, and therefore sports. But they don’t hear me though…

        • “I do not like how the vultures and hyenas have come out of the woodwork since the NFL has had it’s PR crisis, and despite their lack of investment in the sport and it’s business are trying to dictate how the sport should be run and played, as though they somehow could create and maintain a billion plus industry on their own”

          People who have a “lack of investment in the sport” are most likely to be the ones who are most objective about what is a real health problem versus how changes in the NFL may affect their fantasy football team. I’m totally on board with “vultures” who could care less about the running of the business but DO care about the lives of people getting involved.

          • That’s completely false.

            People who have a lack of investment in a sport, do not see the sport as a whole, they see only the part that concerns them. When the president of N.O.W. said that Goodell should be fired, she didn’t say that for the sake of the entire sport, or the business, or the children who seek to one day be like the men on TV, she said that simply due to the isolated incidents of Domestic Violence that was in the news and the spotlight the media was spreading at the time – ironically, she hasn’t be heard in awhile, as should have been expected. It’s the same thing with the issue of health and brain injuries.

            Such people if given the opportunity to destroy the sport completely or leave the things the way they are, will completely, in the name of objectivity, destroy the sport. Which contradicts the desires of the athletes, the fans, the parents who spent most of their lives raising these athletes, and even the young and unathletic kids who play the sport not for dreams of being in the spotlight, but simply for the love of the game.

            If such people were interested not in the popularity of the league and exercising control and influence over it, they would realize that instead of aiming reform at the top, that they would have to start at the bottom, when these children are still amendable and willing to accept changes. They’d realize that you have to change the attitudes of people who cannot imagine football without hard tackles, major hits, and those are the only people who have the investment in the sport, to make changes and still maintain the spirit of the game that draws people in the first place and is the reason why it generates billions of dollars in revenue.

            Vultures and Hyenas unfortunately do not have the insight, the foresight, or the heart to do that, and often times they lack the humility to accept their own limitations mostly because they are driven by faith and true belief, rather than by a desire to make things better.

    • Freebird

      Dangerous sport yo. No jokes.

    • Kozy

      I agree and disagree here. As a lifelong soccer player, I can definitely see the benefit in NOT allowing your 8 year old to do two hours a week of heading drills. However, I don’t think that equating a (possibly unanticipated) shot from a strong safety to a flick-on header on a clearance by a midfielder is fair. Also, in combat sports like boxing and MMA, these participants willing sign up to get hit (as well as hit others) in and about the face area, not to mention get twisted into all manner of unseemly and quite uncomfortable positions in attempt to dominate their opponent. Almost (read: Actually) every professional sport has a risk of inflicting a lasting injury on it’s participants. I think concentrating on the ones that can be eliminated, like head shots & horse collars in the NFL and 3+ stride body checks in hockey are where the most difference can be made.

      As far as the exploitation of athletes, yeah, that happens. As long as owners gon own, owners gon pwn.

      • Val

        “However, I don’t think that equating a (possibly unanticipated) shot
        from a strong safety to a flick-on header on a clearance by a midfielder
        is fair.”

        This is from one of the studies I listed below; “Peak accelerations as measured at the surface of the head were 160 to 180% greater from heading a soccer ball than from routine (noninjurious) impacts during hockey or football, respectively.
        The effect of cumulative impacts at this level may lead to neurologic sequelae.

        So, apparently, a lot has to do with the frequency of impacts rather than just the energy of said impacts. I think it’s hard for people to wrap their minds around the fact that other sports can inflict the same kind of brain trauma as football albeit with a lesser but still worrisome rate.

        • Kozy

          while I don’t doubt the veracity of your study, I’d simply ask for more data. Considering the acceleration of a thing to speak to the impact of it’s force without taking into account the vector of momentum (velocity AND mass) seems incomplete, especially if they haven’t taken into account (football) players heads being driven into the ground or jarring body blows that rattle the brain.

          I’m no scientist, so I won’t sit here and say it’s impossible for brain injury to occur, but i’ll just add this: having played both sports, be it only at the high school level, my head never hurt after a soccer game. except that one time when I got kicked in the head. *shudders* horrible game. I can’t say the same for football. I know it’s not 100% indicative, but I think it’s noteworthy.

          • Val

            Okay, well I really didn’t mean to get into a debate about which sport had it worse head trauma wise. My overall point was if we, society, are going to have a serious discussion about traumatic brain injury then it shouldn’t stop at the NFL or football in general.

          • As a former defensive soccer player, catching a shot to the face with a ball traveling 50mph+ ain’t fun. We were expected to sacrifice to stop a scoring threat, so you know we can get rocked too. I’m sure you’ve seen it, although I’ll admit it doesn’t happen regularly.

            • Kozy

              seen it happen. catching the unanticipated rocket shot off the dome can concuss anyone. my only question is what can be done? if heading is the potential cause of brain damage can it really be eliminated from the beautiful game? can you regulate heading? only in the penalty box? only from throw-ins? I just don’t know what can be done to mitigate realistically address this. it’s an integral part of the game, unlike helmet-to-helmet collisions in football.
              ETA: CC: @disqus_QGKOTi1oX5:disqus

    • Meridian

      Gymnastics is one of the most dangerous sports out there in my opinion. BMX too. The thing about gymnastics is that it’s usually an activity women put their young daughters in and there really isn’t a choice in the matter. If gymnastics becomes a serious thing for the girl it’s part of the culture to train through ripped, bleeding hands and injuries. It’s rough and it’s dangerous. It’s a precision sport so if you’re off your game the results can become catastrophic in a blink of an eye. BMX is the same exact thing. One wind gust to the North, one missed rotation, one missed calculation can result in severely broken bones. It’s not just a football thing, every sport has its dangers.
      I’m not sure it’s all that exploitative to be a fan of such things or to have leagues for such things. That’s an occupational choice that people find entertainment in. It’s not like it’s forced labor and there’s nothing set up in behalf of the athletes best interests. If anything, leagues are the safest place to play because they’re so highly regulated. An actual player/athlete might speak better to that but like with MMA, there’s a significant lack of safety concern or protocol outside of the UFC. I wouldn’t say the organization exploits people just because they profit from the entertainment value of a choice someone made in career. It’s a trade.

      • Val

        Exactly. There are a lot of sports that are very dangerous. Football is the most visible and it should be looked at safety wise but all sports should be examined as well if the real point is overall safety.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        QUE MY THEME MUSIC

        Money is the great divider here. Not too many gymnastic schools and skateparks in the hood. If you can pay to play, typically you have the insurance to cover the injuries. RaMeek isn’t taking the snowmobile he got for Christmas and creating ramps, doing 360’s and making X Games audition tapes unless he’s got a silver spoon.

        • Meridian

          That too. Skateboarders and surfers are likely to be out and about no matter what their money situation is like. Things like BMX, motocross, and snowboarding are the ones that silver spoons are more relevant because the training for them requires so much. Gymnastics and cheerleading are privileged sports as well in terms of cost and coverage. I’m not saying everyone who participates and trains is rich, but they’re covered. Some things can be done without that upfront cost though and people will come out relatively unscathed. I wouldn’t recommend putting a kid in wrestling and not covering him but I would let him play ball.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            I’ll split hairs with you on skateboarding and surfing. If you are fourtunate enough to live near a body of water and have a surf board so be it; taking skateboarding to the next level requires access and to tools are typically in the burbs.

            Cheerleading is not a privilege sport; it’s the type of stunts your team performs that separates the kurds from the whey. The more stunts a team performs, the whites the team looks, the more money being raised / spent in the background.

            • Meridian

              Meh. You have to have a board obviously but a lot of people know people who know people or can make their own. You don’t have to live directly on the water to surf. A lot of people grow up on the sport so it really is more of a lifestyle thing that you come into naturally more than it’s a sport/hobby you pay for. Sponsored surfers and pro surfers have the most expense in that sport but it really is something anyone can do. Skateboarding, I agree. Anyone can do it anywhere and a lot of people do exactly that before they ever even see an upgrade. It’s not a must to be in the suburbs to become good at it or to even go pro, but I do agree that the burbs have the best access to the necessary tools.

              Cheerleading is a privilege sport because it’s expensive as h*ll. Same as gymnastics. There’s also a significant level of opportunity for the people who participate in such activities. The level of stunts is more relevant to division and how they divide you within competitions. Cheerleading is also more classist than it is racial. If you’re part of the culture and can spend the money to elevate said culture, you’re generally embraced. That also contributes to it being a privileged sport. It’s a club like dance moms and pageant moms.

              • AlwaysCC

                cheerleading/dance/gymnastics are all expensive. however, there are more and more cheer/dance/gymanstics orgs popping up for underprivileged girls that takes a lot of that cost out of the equation. while all activity has levels of danger, it’s the competitive teams that i see the most injuries occurring.

                • Meridian

                  True. Once you’re in the club though you’re in. Of course there’s internal politics but it has more to do with participation and divisions (read: how much money you’re spending for the culture) than it does with race. Cheerlearding/gymnastics/dance are pretty tight knit communities. The privilege I’m speaking about comes from how specialized they are as sports as well as the opportunities afforded to those who excel in them.

                  • Epsilonicus

                    Naw. We live in America. Race plays a role, even in the economics.

                    • Meridian

                      If I’m being frank, I just don’t care. I give myself permission to not have everything tied to my blackness. I give myself permission to believe that my progress in life is about my control over my circumstances and environment. I don’t allow people to make it about my race unless I give them permission to. Some things legitimately aren’t about that. If I walk into a store and I try to pay $60 for something that’s worth $100, and an Asian walks in and pays $100 for it, the shop selling it to the other person has nothing to do with me being black. Same thing with the culture. If one person raises $700 and another raises $1,000 than the person who raised the most has more clout. Sure, even successful blacks have racial problems but they aren’t actually problems. It’s more like a nuisance or a fly you can wave off at will.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      What I am saying is that classism and race are together. You cannot talk class without race. Economic disenfranchisement is the ultimate tool used to hold back Black folks, from slavery to Jim Crow to redlining to ghetto loans in our mortgage crisis. I am not saying your entire existence is racism. I am saying class and racism are fraternal twins and we cannot talk one without the other.

                    • Meridian

                      Who cares though? Everyone knows that already so that line of conversation is a dead horse. It’s also an archaic paradigm that limits and dampens the possibilities. I just prefer to accept that I can in fact enjoy my life without being dragged down by other people for being black.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      1. Everyone doesn’t know that.
                      2. It is not an archaic paradigm, look at the NFL or NBA as an example. Or our housing market.
                      3. While YOu may not care, that does not make the dynamic any less important.

                    • Meridian

                      1. I’m actually pretty sure everyone in this comment thread knows that.
                      2. It’s an archaic paradigm to zero in on the obstacles race creates instead of being open minded enough to embrace the possibilities of what we have the power to create. It’s the difference between accepting you can’t get a place to live because you’re black and being a black person who owns an apartment complex and changed regulations in doing so.
                      3. It ISN’T important. It has nothing to do with my point, what I was discussing, my belief system, the reality I live in, or the actual dynamics of the culture I was discussing. You’re injecting a racial struggle into a space where race has nothing to do with the conversation at hand. That’s like someone talking about sewing or shopping and you come in like “the cotton was a struggle for all of us”. It’s irrelevant at the moment.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      It matters because if you ask why to something, you will find these things you don’t care about play a role in the why.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      Exactly. Its not about holding someone back. Just the accurate description of social phenomena.

                    • Meridian

                      *rolls my eyes at both of you*

                      Whatevs. Y’all go head and brood. I’ma be over here throwing money at people’s faces and telling them they work for my kids now. Then I will proceed to run the organization like I always do. Tuh. Black economics for the win.

                    • Meridian

                      Which is irrelevant to productive and positive action but makes for “riveting” (read: redundant) conversation.

                    • Meridian

                      It doesn’t matter because I don’t care. If someone has an issue with my blackness or wants to create an obstacle based on my blackness, I literally trample all over it in the process of going about my business. I don’t care about the why, the who, the run down, or the jig. I don’t place vitality on sh*t like that unless it benefits me. *shrugs*

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      *In my Obama voice* Let me be clear; looking for the root cause(s) of an issue does not mean I plan to let those causes stop me or my clan. Your response sounds white in some regards; that’s what’s troubling. It’s like asking why are there so few black golfers / ice skaters / hockey players and not being concerned with the root causes; ignoring the root cause may prevent you (or anyone else) from taking positive action steps and we’ve both seen how taking poor action steps has played out in our lifetimes.

                      My two cents

                    • Epsilonicus

                      *nods in agreement*

                      But maybe she not tryna make no positive moves so…

                    • Meridian

                      “*In my Obama voice* Let me be clear; looking for the root cause(s) of an issue does not mean I plan to let those causes stop me or my clan.”

                      lmao. Okay. So if I’m operating in a capacity that I’m unstoppable, why yank my chain just to make me aware of obstacles and root causes I’m already aware of? If we can’t be stopped than I have every right to skip over that stuff and just deal with the reality of living as someone who, as an individual and as a team, can’t be stopped.

                      “Your response sounds white in some regards…”
                      But here’s the key thing. I am in fact black. I’m not accountable for the root causes of those issues. White people are and the people who helped them are. They absolutely have to acknowledge such things and undo what they’ve built to stand against us. As a black person, I just have to have the mental fortitude to exist in a reality where everyone who wants to be a pro golfer can be. Everyone who wants to be a surfer can be. Everyone who wants to play hockey can do that. It’s a matter of us communing on the basis of how to get it done.

                  • AlwaysCC

                    i gotcha on the privilege. i was just relating it to the number/severity of injuries. if anything, the girls (i guess i should mention some guys do participate) who don’t spend as much money on trainers, equipment, etc. may be injured more often than those who have those additional resources.

                    • Meridian

                      Ah, gotcha! I agree. Gymnastics is definitely something you want to have the proper tools and coaches for. In and of itself it’s very dangerous and taxing on the body so to do it without that is just begging for disaster. Cheerleading is a little different because not all teams do crazy stunt work. A well informed adult can teach the basics and serve as an introduction to the more advanced levels where the injuries happen. With those types of teams you for sure wanna be covered professionally and medically. Dance is the most loose. It’s basically all the way safe and anyone can do it (it’s also not a sport but still).

                    • AlwaysCC

                      we’ll just have to agree to disagree on whether dancing is a sport and if anyone can do it lol and it’s definitely NOT all the way safe

                • Stunting and tumbling = broken bones everywhere :-(

    • The NFL has to take the hits. It’s either that or the very foundation of football is questioned. o

      • Val

        Do you mean ‘scrutiny’ when you say ‘hits’? If so it is taking its hits. Direct hits. There are even more law suits pending.

        • Yup. Scrutiny/lawsuits

    • Andrea

      Just out of curiosity. Would you allow your children to participate in any sports at all?

      And if so…how do you decide which ones?

      • Val

        Of course I would. I’m not anti-sport. Where did I give the impression I wouldn’t? I wouldn’t decide. I’d let them decide. And, I would encourage them to do so. I will admit though that I would be biased toward track and field.

        • Andrea

          Ohhh nooo I didn’t think you gave the impression you wouldn’t. I was just curious. I think I would let them decide too. But I imagine by that time I would have dang near done a thesis on sports safety. And have about several articles ready for publication. And would have probably written critical letters to 538 about
          http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/cheerleading-safety-high-school-sports/#fn-5
          and would probably have…..etc etc etc
          and help them create their own logistic regression models….and help them read all that research….And tell ’em. It is up to you.

        • SQUAD UP!!!!!

          ETA: The worst injury I ever witnessed was a girl who broke her femur while hurdling.

          • Val

            It takes a special kind of crazy…I mean bravery to be a hurdler.

            • I hurdled lol It’s all about mastering the 3 step and perfecting your trail leg

  • In the end it doesn’t matter.

    Basic laws of supply and demand: as long as there is demand for hard hits and gladiatorial battles in the name of sports, and a large amount of consumer money going into that, people will rise to the occasion. And in the case of football, America’s most famous sport, people will play it, even without the money and still aim to hit each other hard without any fear or acknowledgement of future head injuries.

    It’s easy to focus on the corporation and the profit, but I’ve seen people play football for free and hit people in ways that would make you cringe on a Sunday night and they took the hit and did the hit for free. The reason why these sports are watched, appreciated and profitable, isn’t because people merely enjoy watching sports, it’s also because they get to see people either do what they wish they could do, or already can do but do it better. Until that desire changes, the game will march on.

  • The problem with the concussion crisis in football is that it’s a systemic issue that will develop slowly. The human mind doesn’t do brought systemic crises well. It’s much easier to follow Ray Rice two-piecing his fiancee as opposed to players getting brain issues because the problem develops on a shorter, clearer time scale. On top of that, there are plenty of people who have Alzheimer’s who’ve barely played two-hand touch football in the backyard. It’s something that’s so far from visceral that few people will speak on it.

    The business of television and sports also have a major factor. I saw something about the ratings trends of football games and other TV programs over the past 15 years or so. While football ratings have trended slightly up, ratings for other programs, particularly scripted fare, have dropped dramatically. While you can’t Netflix the NFL, you can do that for a whole lot of television these days. Plus other sports have their own issues. The NBA can’t figure out how to convert their Black fans from cheering for players to cheering for teams, particularly in the middle and small-market cities. The NHL has trouble growing beyond its small White base in a North America that’s becoming less White. MLB has trouble developing teams with a national following besides the Yankees, Red Sox and maybe the Dodgers, and would kill their own mother to get back some fans from the NBA. No one is really complaining in the NFL office.

    Oh, and a quick FYI. This Friday night, I’m going to be posted up at SoCo in Brooklyn for my born day. Email me at iluminati14@gmail.com if you want to come through. :)

  • Sigma_Since 93

    Somebody get my theme music for today qued up….*looks for the O’Jays For the Love of Money*

    Alright here we go. It’s all about the money; the NFL doesn’t move unless there’s a threat to the money. For those who don’t know, the President almost banned football as a sport due to deaths and injuries back in the day. The money was almost chump change; the players had jobs in the off season. To the men of that era I give them a pass and they deserve any additional compensation available.

    The technology is there to make the sport safer; the league is moving as fast as the nation did to fully implement integration laws. Virginia Tech has concussion sensors that can be put into helmets to measure head trauma that occurs during hits but the NFL won’t do a true test. Rodger G being the good attorney he is knows that if those sensors become implemented, teams and the league become liable if a player was at a concussion threshold and was allowed to re-enter a game or brought back too soon. Maybe another legion of potential lawsuits may be motivation to spur change. Keep in mind this is the same league that fined James Harrsion for his brutal hit on Muhammad Massaquoi but was selling pictures of the hit on its website.

    And we haven’t even talked about the addiction to pain meds but that’s for another post.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      For those who don’t remember the hit in question. Mr. Massaquoi was recently put on a milk carton because he hasn’t been seen since.

      • Val

        Is James Harrison still with the Bengals?

        • Sigma_Since 93

          No he’s back in the fold with the Black and Gold.

          • Val

            He picked the wrong year to leave the Bengals. They’re having a good year so far.

            • Sigma_Since 93

              They are 3-1 and the Steelers are 3-2; it’s a wash. Besides, you can’t go back to a place that doesn’t want you.

              • Val

                Isn’t Cincinnati right across the river from Pittsburgh? I bet he didn’t even have to move. Lol

    • “The technology is there to make the sport safer; the league is moving as fast as the nation did to fully implement integration laws.”

      You would think that since football’s governing bodies and the D.O.D have been dealing with head injuries that they would sit down and do some R&D together to come up with better equipment.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        That would effectively make football cost prohibitive and kill the sport. The cost of the helmets would be a grip and then small schools, poor cities would need to buy 30 at a minimum to field a team plus off season refurb. won’t happen.

        • Those small high schools, colleges, and poor cities are barely getting buy right now so nothing will change.

    • Meridian

      I can’t even watch football. I’m super squeamish so every time a play starts I’m flinching and wincing and praying to God when they get up I don’t see any crazy injuries. I don’t know how anyone could actually enjoy such a violent game. I’m like that with MMA too. I think it’s awful but I also realize sports is a way out for a lot of people so I won’t necessarily knock the league. I just don’t watch. I’d rather watch #Bae play flag football on the weekend or something, but football for me is like watching a scary movie that legitimately frightens me.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        We are blood thirsty individuals and violent sports have always filled that void. Folks didn’t fill up the coliseum to see the humans beat the lions; they wanted to see carnage. Boxing was popular because we could see a legal beating. The majority of folks don’t watch NASCAR because of the strategy; they want to see crashes. It’s been that way for some time now.

        • Meridian

          I like competition. I like watching people go head to head to see who has honed the best skills in their craft. It’s why I favor the Olympics over something like boxing. I don’t care for the element of violence in these things (though I agree with you about society as a whole) but I do enjoy the competitive aspect in certain things.

          • Abu Husain

            Boxing was actually in the original Olympic games… Pankration was an ancient version of MMA. Like Sigma mentioned, violence is natural – healthy even. People need an outlet and certain events allow folks to get their fix in a legal maner.

            • Neptunes presents The Clones

              Nothing like beating it up

              • Meridian

                I think I almost see what you did there. >_>

            • Meridian

              lol, I was thinking that when I typed it. I was referring to present day games though. Certain sports aren’t included anymore so it’s actually enjoyable for me to watch just purely for skilled competition. The Olympics morphed out of the blood sport elements and I can appreciate that. That’s a good point though. People have a lot of aggression and also a lot of things they’re dealing with so it’s a healthy way to express it.

      • People always compare MMA and boxing but many of the great MMA guys from America are college educated wrestlers. The fact that they use lighter gloves also translates to less continuous blows to the head also.

        • Kozy

          if we’re talking head blows, sure MMA is safer than boxing. overall injury? not a chance.

          • For sure. No one is kicking Floyd Mayweather in liver.

            • Meridian

              *shudders*

              • I’d pay to see someone do it but it just isn’t apart of his profession.

                • Meridian

                  lmao! I would actually watch Mayweather do any sort of mixed combat. That’d actually be interesting.

                  • Kozy

                    all of the haters would finally get to see him beat up.

                    • Meridian

                      I just wanna see how he handles himself outside of his element. I wanna see if he’s adaptable in that regard and can still hold his own.

              • Neptunes presents The Clones

                Gs do not shudder mate

                • Meridian

                  But he said liver kick! That’s gotta be an exception right?

        • Neptunes presents The Clones

          MMA has mad injuries mate. You should go to Thailand and Sri Lanka and see the retired fighters,they deal with head traumas

          • I was speaking of the head injuries and more so the backgrounds of the major American stars. many of the foreign fighters get started at 12 and don’t stop.

    • Olivia

      Roger Goddell is not an attorney. He doesn’t have a JD, his education stopped at the Bachelors level.

      • Olivia

        *Goodell

  • Rachmo

    This has actually been the first year since I can remember where I have not watched a single football game. As in turned off my alerts, haven’t checked the scores, totally cut if off. The more information I found out over the past few years, the harder it has made it for me to enjoy the sport. The combination of the head injury reports, chexual assault cases, etc, etc, it’s all just too much. for me to turn a blind eye to. I’m sure I’ll get back into it one day but I need a break.

    • Val

      Wow. Cold turkey.

      • Rachmo

        First time ever. It’s rough bc I want to know what’s happening obviously but at least I have more time on Sundays.

        • Val

          I know what you mean. When I quit cable I had a lot more time too. I also know how it is to be turned off to something. I was really turned off to cable. So, yeah, I get it. Still, not sure if I could do it. The NFL is the only sport I can see on a regular basis now that I don’t have cable.

          • Rachmo

            I wouldn’t suggest it for everyone. I always feel like I let the Steelers down if I don’t watch them and they lose. So obviously this season has been torture to not check the scores AND to not watch. Ugh.

            • Val

              I’ll bet it has. Your team is doing well so far. Mike Tomlin deserves a good year.

              • Rachmo

                *sobs* Va-ha-haaal don’t make it harder

                • Val

                  Sorry.

                  *goes to corner*

    • AlwaysCC

      just the other day i was thinking about how many people (maybe it’s just in my circle) who have stopped watching football or cut back on watching because of the criminal activity off the field. it made me think…i’ve never known anyone to never watch any movies again because several actors had violent pasts. or never listen to music again.

      i’m not saying you’re wrong to take a stand (good for you!). it’s just something i was thinking about recently…

      • Rachmo

        Man that whole Chris Brown thing…ugh I had to cut it off. I’ve bought one song since “the incident.”

        • AlwaysCC

          yeah – i know several people who don’t buy his music anymore. but they still listen to music. you’ve given up football…other people i know have done the same. not just boycotting a particular team…the entire game. it’s just interesting to me that’s all. but i’m also a weirdo who looks for patterns in everything lol

      • Val

        RKelly. I have not listened to his music in a long time. Since his trial in fact.

        • AlwaysCC

          but do you still listen to R&B? i guess football is a different because it’s a team sport versus a solo act. *shrug* maybe movies are a better comparison since folks usually aren’t in movies alone…

  • VAstrong

    the way you described Alzheimer’s was a little chilling to say the least…
    great article.

    • Rachmo

      My grandfather had Parkinson’s and dementia. As I was his oldest grandchild I changed the most when his memory started to go. We were very close before it and I had to accept that although he was very polite to me, he had no idea who I was. I just settled for being his acquaintance. Now he was 80 when this happened. The thought of it happening to my parents in their late 50’s? No I couldn’t deal with that.

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