This year, the NFL has been a matrix for controversy. Find out just one more reason that it might be time to stop supporting football.
Photo: Adapted from Barrio et al., PNAS
Every year, the best day to go to Disney World, the only day in which you can enjoy Splash Mountain and the Rockin Rollercoaster without dealing with any lines, is the first Sunday of February. Why? Because approximately 103.4 million Americans will be watching the Super Bowl, making it the biggest television event every year, without fail.
Whether or not you personally care for America’s favorite sport, you definitely know someone who does. You know someone who yelled at the TV when there was a missed pass-interference call during the Saints-Rams game, you know someone who spent more than they should on tickets to see their college team win, and you might even know someone who cried when the Patriots won the Super Bowl this year. The fact is that Americans, myself included, love football; however, recently, the long-term health effects on players has led many fans to change their minds.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive hits to the head over a number of years. Symptoms of CTE include cognitive impairment, impulsive behavior, depression, short-term memory loss, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts or behavior.
One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found CTE in 99 percent of NFL players, as well at 91 percent of college football players and 21 percent of high school football players that they tested. Still, it is difficult to learn more about CTE, specifically as it applies to football, because it can only be diagnosed after death through brain tissue analysis, and, as a result, there is no cure.
Though Ann McKee, the leading researcher of CTE, has reported correlation between head injuries and CTE for years, it’s link to football was not confirmed until March of 2016 when Jeff Miller, the NFL's executive vice president for health and safety policy, acknowledged the connection during a roundtable discussion investigating concussions in the military, sports and other dangerous pursuits.
This issue is personal to me because my step-father shows symptoms of CTE, and participated in a Mayo Clinic study of the disease. He played football all throughout high school and went on to be a linebacker at the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis and he frequently suffered from head trauma. He had his first seizure in eighth grade after a big hit in a football game. He has had seizures ever since and just recently has begun to show signs of cognitive impairment. While he is otherwise in good health, the disease that affects him is a scary one because there is little known about it.
While I have grown up loving football, the way in which I have seen it affect my step-dad have recently caused me to rethink my original adoration of the game. I don’t think a game is necessarily worth the risk and damage of CTE.
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