Seminole State College
After the suicide of NFL player Junior Seau last May and the murder-suicide of Kansas City Cheifs player Jovan Belcher, the issue of head trauma and the long term effects it has on players in the NFL has become a very hot topic in the sports and medical field. While the cause of Belcher’s depression has not been diagnosed as caused by any specific disease, the official diagnosis of what made Seau end his life has been cited as CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) (Zeigler, 2012). CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disease which is caused by repetitive head trauma, such as concussions (SLI, 2012). CTE is known to cause depression, severe mood swings, aggressiveness, memory loss, dementia, and suicidal behavior (Preventing Concussions). Though originally thought to only be a disease found only in boxers, after medical examiner Bennet Omalu identified CTE in two former Pittsburg Steelers in 2002, the NFL and scientists began to realize that many more of their current and former players were suffering with CTE (SLI, 2012). As of now, 33 deceased NFL players have been confirmed to have had CTE before their death (Breslow, 2013). Literature Review
CTE is characterized by a few neurological and physiological abnormalities in the brain, one of the main symptoms is the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau (Zeigler, 2012). In CTE affected brains, tau clumps and builds up in places, causing the brain to malfunction, often leading to dementia in later stages. (Zeigler, 2012). A study done in 2012 by Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy studied 85 brains donated by families of veterans, boxers, and high school, college, and NFL players for the build up of tau(Lupkin, 2012). Of the 85, 63 had CTE, including 34 professional football players (Lupkin, 2012). A total of 35 professional football player’s brains had been studied, and only one was shown to have no symptoms of the disease (Lupkin, 2012). Discussion
From this research, we can conclude that CTE is greatly affecting many professional football players, both currently in the NFL and retired. While the NFL is putting new rules and regulations on equipment and which type of tackles are allowed, living retired NFL players are found to already have symptoms of CTE (Fainaru, 2013). Through brain scans and research done by UCLA, they have identified proteins in player’s brains that cause CTE, which as Dr. Julian Bailes, co-director or North Shore Neurological Institute said, is the “holy grail” to studying CTE and finding ways to cure and prevent it (Fainaru, 2013). While this is a break through, there is still no cure or way to treat CTE (Fainaru, 2013). But this research also raises questions about CTE and the NFL. Will players be required to be tested for CTE? Can players be denied playing anymore if CTE is found? Will this greatly affect the way that football is currently played? As the research is still being collected, there is still no definite answer to any of those questions, but the NFL has acknowledged the correlations of CTE and concussions caused by playing in the NFL and assures that they will do all they can to help prevent severe brain trauma to their players, including donating $30 million to the National Institutes of Health to conduct further research on CTE (Kroll, 2013). Limitations
While we have recently found a way to detect signs of CTE in living players, there is no way to confirm the presence of CTE other than in a postmortem examination (Kroll, 2013). Also, this is only a study on five players (Fainaru, 2013). Of these players, three were already known to show severe symptoms of CTE (Kroll, 2013). Not only that, but two of the players were over the age of sixty, both showing the normal amount of memory loss and depression for men of that age (Kroll, 2013). Much more research needs to be done on living players, both currently...