Super Bowl 43 is less than a week away, an entertainment spectacle guaranteed to please from the commercials to the hard hitting action. Maybe too hard hitting. New reports surfaced this week linking the head traumas associated with playing football to a degenerative brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Tom McHale a 45 year old former Tampa Bay Buccaneer who died last year, was the latest to be diagnosed post-mortem with CTE. He is the sixth deceased former NFL player, aged 50 or younger, to be diagnosed with CTE. This has fueled the debate of the impact of football related head injuries, including concussions, on the long term brain health of players.
This is in addition to the number of former NFL players from the 60’s and 70’s who are still alive and suffering from dementia. But the problem may start long before the players turn pro.
The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has discovered early stages of CTE in a deceased 18 year old football player who suffered multiple concussions while in high school. This is the youngest person yet to be diagnosed with the disease.
Robert Cantu, MD, chief of Neurosurgery and director of Sports Medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass, and clinical professor Neurosurgery at BUSM wrote the first “return to play” guidelines for players following a head injury. In reference to the discovery of the 18 year old’s symptoms, he says “Our efforts to educate athletes, coaches, and parents on the need to identify and rest concussions have only been moderately successful because people have been willing to look the other way when a child suffers a concussion. I hope the discovery of CTE in a child creates the urgency this issue needs. It is morally and ethically wrong to allow our children to voluntarily suffer this kind of brain trauma without taking the simple educational steps needed to protect them.”
Personally, I know of a couple of local families who have children playing high school football. Recently, after receiving several concussions during games, one family noticed some initial cognitive impairment in their child and then wisely removed him from the team.
So as you watch the game this Sunday, whether you’re rooting for Arizona or the “other team”, keep in mind the true “impact” the game is having, not only on the players, but also on our children.
Boston University (2009, January 27). Football And Progressive Brain Damage: Tom McHale Of NFL Suffered From Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy When He Died In 2008. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/01/090127165938.htm