• Thu, Feb 2 2012

I Kind Of Think Football Is Completely Immoral, But No Big Deal!

Those are two stories. There are too many stories to tell, here. Stories like the one about Andre Waters who shot himself at 45, and, once autopsied, was found to have brain tissue resembling an 85 year old man with Alzheimer’s. Or Dave Duerson, formerly of The Giants, who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest rather in the head, because he wanted to insure that his brain was tested for CTE. Or Terry Long, who drank antifreeze. Or Justin Strzelczyk who drove his car 90 miles an hour the wrong way down a freeway. Suffice to say, there are plenty more, and you can go through them for hours.

I hate those stories.

None of those players made a big deal out of head trauma during their careers. Because head trauma is practically a joke – NFL players refer to it as “getting their bell rung.” That’s what Mike Webster did.

“He got his bell rung all the time, just like the rest of us,” says former teammate Rocky Bleier. “Webster would would treat a concussion like it was a hangnail,”  Also like the others, he tried to shrug it off. “Everybody gets injured, but most injuries aren’t reported,” says Miki Yaras-Davis, director of benefits at the NFL Players Association. Play­ers worry about ending their career, she says. “Like Webster, most of the guys will treat a concussion like a hangnail.”

This isn’t normal. And you know this isn’t normal. If you got a concussion, you’d be in the hospital. If you were wandering around your desk and got slammed in the head, everyone around you would panic. Because it’s serious. It is not normal to treat traumatic impact to your brain as though it is no big deal, because that is obviously a very bad idea.

Actually? Let’s have retired NFL player Brent Boyd, the founder of Dignity After Football address why treating concussions as though they’re no big deal is not a good idea.

And this is a game where they happen all the time. Time Magazine reported that:

 “High school football players alone sustain 100,000 full-blown, diagnosed concussions per year. Flying under the radar are injuries mild enough to get passed off by coaches as a mere ding or ignored by players anxious to get back on the field.”

Everything would be fine if the brain rested perfectly snugly inside the skull. But since it floats inside a watery base, when it suffers a severe impact brains can bang against the skeletal structure and swell, which causes a concussion.

Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes of Chicago’s NorthShore University Neurological Institute claims:

A blow to the head can cause connecting fibers between nerves to wrench and tear. The brain tries to repair itself, but if the blows continue, it can’t keep up, leading to deposits of tau proteins, a major structural component of nerve fibers.

“The taus begin to accumulate,” Bailes says. “I compare them to sludge. Any concussion could lead to taus, but what we’ve learned is that it’s the repetitive nature of what used to be called mild brain injury that causes problems.” Scarily, football helmets, which do a fine job of protecting against scalp laceration and skull fracture, do little to prevent concussions and may even exacerbate them, since even as the brain is rattling around inside the skull, the head is rattling around inside the helmet.

And as helmets become more protective, they only encourage players to play harder.

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  • endn

    thanks for posting this… you may get some flak but people ignore this mess way too easily. preach!

  • self help

    I see your point, but basically every football fan will say, “Well, then don’t become a football player if you don’t like the consequences.”

  • Jen

    This freaks me out. I play rugby and i am guilty of treating concussions like hangnails… (getting knocked out cold, driving home and going to a concert the same night and then trying to play in a game less than a week later, reconcussing myself). I’m also in my final year of law school, and don’t want to be basically senile only years into my career. Freaky…

    On the other hand, one of canada’s ex-Supreme Court judges was a professional CFLer.

  • Jamie Peck

    This is the same reason I hate football. (Actually, it’s one of many, but it seems like the most valid one.) Sending this to my boyfriend now!

  • porkchop

    “At the very least, these are things people need to know absolutely going into the game. ”

    The age at which you make a big commitment to football, 18-25, is the same age where your worry over physical risk is at it’s all time low. Seeing a video of an injured former player would scare a college-age player, but probably not deter them from a lifelong dream.

    I think you’re right–you’re up against our whole culture. We’re too polite to admit we want to watch each other fight to the death. But…

    Stay strong!

  • BeccaTheCyborg

    I’m a Canadian, and I feel the same way about hockey for the same reason. I can’t see the fun in watching people destroy themselves for our amusement and then get told they deserved the results, are exaggerating, or knew what they were getting into.

  • NotThumper

    I dislike football for the same reason I detest all sports-people are paid far too much money for playing a GAME. I must admit that reading this article does make me feel a bit more justified in my opinion though.

  • David Jahr

    Thank you for bringing this issue to the light. Daniel G. Amen has studied the impact of playing football for year, having just completed three landmark studies on NFL players’ brain health.

    The conclusions are expected. Playing football is bad for your brain and can lead to problems associated with brain damage years later, that will cost you your memory, sanity and your life.

    But one study showed that through his treatment, many of these symptoms can be reversed.

    If you know anyone struggling with ADD/ADHD, dementia, memory loss, anger etc, send them to the Amen Clinics, Inc.

    Or if anyone would like to read the studies, let me know.

    David
    davidjahr@mac.com

  • Jennifer Dziura

    I stopped boxing once I realized that I kind of like my head not getting hit. And also my eyeballs.

    Also, Jennifer, as much as it makes me feel alive, maybe we need to cancel our regular Ladies’ Fight Club.

    • Jennifer Wright

      In the future, only high stakes gambling and Russian roulette to unwind. We need to take better care of ourselves.

    • MR

      Ladies’ Fight Club? What is Brad Pitt the instructor? :) Sorry but my money is on Helena…she was definately…. :)

  • Tania

    Fred’s story almost made me cry at work.

  • Jeanne Marie Laskas

    THANK YOU, JENNIFER WRIGHT! This is an awesome overview and so so so important and hard to talk about–esp now. Thank you for joining the conversation!

  • MR

    Football is okay, but pretty one dimensional. Yeah, definately as brutal on the athlete as hockey. Good news is my girlfriend’s a diehard Red Sox fan. She says she’s going teach me the AL ropes, since I favor the NL – I’ve been somewhat teamless since the Expos vacated Montreal, over 5 years ago – man, do I miss them, $22 US for front row box seats.

  • lovecady

    loveyou

  • Jenny

    Thank god someone agrees with me! I took a Sportswriting class as part of my journalism major – that was also required for sports management majors – and we read a number of stories about the dangers of football and tau buildup. The athletes in the class seemed totally uninterested. I still don’t understand how the seriousness didn’t register for them – these are your brains, people! I didn’t love football before that class, but after reading so many tragic stories about lives destroyed by concussions, I reached Jennifer’s conclusion. I hate football.

  • Hugh

    Auto-play ads like this website has are also immoral.