ENC 91 10-06-10
Concussions in the NFL
Concussions, something that most players, from pee wee to pro football admit to
having had sometime in their career. As sports evolve, players are bigger, faster , and
stronger. NFL players are million dollar machines, they are owned, and are the product
of a business empire. Many players are forced to retire due to injury, but many don’t
begin to feel the long term effects until after retirement. At what price are NFL athletes
pay for glory, money, or love of the game?
The effects of multiple concussions on NFL players has become a cause for concern.
Many players and their families had begun to notice different behaviors. These behaviors
include deep depression, headaches, sleep disturbances, and severe memory loss. One
ex-NFL player has to write all his thoughts and activities in a small notebook. If the
events are not timed and documented, they never happened. Another player became so
depressed that he did not leave his house for two years, or interact with family or friends.
Some families became so concerned with the erratic behavior, they turned to the
NFL for help. At the time, the NFL did not have any studies being conducted, or any
assistance to offer the players or their families. They then turned to the Center for the
study of traumatic encephalopathy (CSTE). Currently the CSTE can only examine the
brains of dead athletes with informed consent. Concussions are considered to be
invisible injuries, since they are not detected on MRI, or CT scan. They are unable to
reveal the extent of brain damage, until they can directly examine the brain. So far over
one hundred NFL players have consented to have their brains studied after death.
When NFL players brains were studied, five of five were found to have large
amounts of brain damage, ie: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Their brains
were inspected closely, and found to have deep tissue injury, resembling the brain of an
eighty year old with dementia. CTE is a progressive disease, that continues to kill brain
cells, and cause damage to the areas of the brain that control emotion, rage, hyper
sexuality, and breathing. Like Muhammad Ali, and other punch drunk boxers, NFL
player brains show signs of damage and dementia, several times larger that the national
When a player sustains a concussion, they report feeling woozy, drunk, or dazed.
NFL data shows that there are one hundred twenty to one hundred thirty documented
concussions per regular season, however many cases go unreported. Most players state
that when they get hit hard, they know that something is wrong, but do not report the
incident. They either feel that they are letting the team down, afraid of losing their spot
to another player, injury is a sigh of weakness, but most say that staying in the game is
what they were taught to do. In the past, the decision to return to a game post concussion
was made by someone employed by the team. Doctors, owners, and coaches would
decide when a player was ready to return, causing a conflict of interest on the players
In addition to the CSTE, the university of North Carolina Chapel Hill, is attempting
to study NFL players brains while they are alive. They have over three thousand
participants to date. The study is using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging. This
measures the neurons that transmit information in the brain. The NFL is also planning to perform a long term study, following players into retirement,...