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Friday Night Lights Out: The Truth about Football and Long Term Brain Damage

The Truth about Football and Long Term Brain Damage

The National Football League recently agreed to pay former players nearly $1 billion in compensation to settle the class action lawsuit against them. The plaintiffs were more than 5,000 former NFL players who were “suffering from dementia, depression or Alzheimer's that they blamed on blows to the head” and started the class action suit against the NFL, “accusing it of concealing the dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field while glorifying and profiting from the kind of bone-jarring hits that make for spectacular highlight-reel footage.” The final approval on the settlement came this past April from a federal judge.

Some people are incredibly angry at Roger Goodell, for putting the NFL’s profits before its players. Some people blame the players themselves, accusing them of being greedy. Some people want to end football forever; some want to change the rules; some want to say that there’s no excuse now, and that playing football when you know the dangers is no different than lighting a cigarette or driving drunk.

However, regardless of your position, this much is crystal clear: we all now have definitive proof that repeated blows to the head –­ even those which do not cause a concussion – cause a devastating brain injury called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is “a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head.” At this point, whether or not the NFL or its doctors knew about the dangers they placed their athletes in is almost irrelevant (which makes it no less despicable). What is relevant is the following question: If the NFL would pay nearly $1 billion to compensate former players for their brain injuries, which occurred while playing football, why would any parent voluntarily allow their son or daughter to play football?

Playing football leads to brain damage. Permanent, devastating brain damage. The numbers are in; the science is clear. Every single player at every single age is at risk.

And that includes your child.

Why your child is at-risk of developing CTE from playing sports

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy used to be called “punch drunk,” because the condition was observed so frequently in boxers. It was not until the last decade that it became apparent football causes CTE due to the repetitive blows to the head.  It occurs when a person takes repeated blows to the head, over a certain period of time, even when they do not result in a concussion. While not every football player will develop CTE, it is now clear the overwhelming majority of players will. This is due to  repeated trauma causing a build-up of a protein called tau. Tau normally makes sure that the nerves in your brain are operating smoothly, but after football related blows to the head, it twists and collapses into what doctors call “tangles.” These tangles directly lead to irreversible brain damage.

This is the worst part: according to Boston University, “these changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement” (emphasis ours). That means that one season of middle school football can cause your child to suffer a debilitating, degenerative brain disease that could lead to dementia, violent tendencies and even suicide.

Imagine what four years of high school football can cause. Imagine what 15 years of professional football in the NFL leads to.

Choose life

The underlying problem with all of this doesn’t only lie with Goodell and the NFL: it lies with every single person who watches the games, who buys the merchandise, who lets their children play a game that may one day cause them to kill their families and then themselves. It’s about choosing a life where your child has an 80% chance of developing CTE. It’s about not examining the causes of domestic violence that plague American football players.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is real. It is linked to football. It is killing our kids. And until we, as parents and community members, decide to stand up and say “No more!” it will continue to do so.

It’s time to stop choosing football. Choose the future. Choose your children. Choose life.

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