If football is in your past, CTE might by in your near future. What is CTE? Sounds menacing, right? That’s because it is. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is an almost undetectable mix of early on set Alzheimer’s, depression and irritability, all because of blows to the head. Unsurprisingly, its remnants are found in 99% of former NFL football players who have since passed.
Up until yesterday, CTE could only be seen in scans of a deceased person’s brain. Science, however, is advancing exponentially (per usual). Repeated concussions or head injuries of any kind, including mild blows, can trigger the build up of tau protein in the brain which can be tracked with radioactive imaging. Studies done on ex-NFL football player Fred McNeill have just been released to the public, all done while he was alive. This diagnosis shows that the build up of tau protein in the brain correlates directly with CTE symptoms within the last 2 years of McNeill’s life. Doctor Omalu diagnosed McNeill in the final stage of his life and proved it with further scans of his brain after death. McNeill’s wife provides testimony to the drastic change that CTE causes in caring people.
“There are some times where the father is the stronghold in the family, or the anchor. If you lose that, everything kind of falls apart. That’s kind of what happened for us. It looked like financial issues at first; it looked like marital issues, and they separated; then it looked like just depression.”
To make a long, controversial story short, sports with a plethora of blows to the head (such as football, wrestling, rugby etc) cause serious long-term problems, even decades after a player’s last game. The question that remains is this: is more protective gear in our future or should we abolish these games as a whole? As football lies at the center of American culture, sacrificing their mid-life memory seems to be worth it to most dedicated football players; in the NFL, especially, where a game is worth millions – brain health is not at the forefront.
Where CTE research is valuable to treat those with chronic concussions, the research will be ignored and not funded by those who love the game.