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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

 
Continuing the New Yorker story on the NFL: What we now know, from reading Schwarz, is that retired N.F.L. players are five to nineteen times as likely as the general population to have received a dementia-related diagnosis; that the helmet-manufacturing industry is overseen by a volunteer consortium funded largely by helmet manufacturers; and that Lou Gehrig may not actually have had the disease that bears his name but suffered from concussion-related trauma instead. (Since 1960, fourteen N.F.L. players have had a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is about twelve more than you would expect from a random population sample.) In the manner of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Dr. Maroon has delineated four stages in the N.F.L.’s reaction to the reality of brain damage: active resistance and passive resistance, shifting to passive acceptance and, finally, in the past few months, active acceptance. “What we’re seeing now is that major cultural shift, and I think Alan took a lot of barbs, and a lot of hits, initially, for his observations,” Maroon said.

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Two weeks after Black and Blue Sunday, on October 28th, an honor student in Spring Hill, Kansas, returned to the sidelines after making an interception at his high school’s homecoming game and told his coach that his head was hurting. Soon afterward, he fell to the ground, suffered a subdural hematoma, and died. The next week, Jim McMahon, the ex-quarterback, confessed at a twenty-fifth reunion of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears that his memory is “pretty much gone,” and that he often walks into a room without knowing why. “It’s unfortunate what the game does to you,” he said. I was reading about McMahon during a commercial break in the “Monday Night Football” game between the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals—a commercial break that included a surprising Toyota promotion involving football. It began with a woman discussing her worries, as a mother, about her son playing the sport: “Which is why I’m really excited, because Toyota developed this software that can simulate head injuries in an accident. . . . So, you know, I can feel a bit better about my son playing football.”

A few days later, a Cleveland Browns linebacker collapsed at his locker-room stall, after practice, in the presence of reporters, and was taken to the hospital. Shortly after that, two high-school players died on the same day—one on the field, in Massachusetts, of a heart stoppage, and the other, in North Carolina, by suicide, five weeks after suffering a season-ending concussion. The same week, two Division I college players announced their retirement, out of concerns relating to concussions, and team doctors at the University of Utah “medically disqualified” a sophomore from continuing his career.

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Between 1982 and 2009, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research, two hundred and ninety-five fatalities directly or indirectly resulted from high-school football. From 1977 to 2009, at all levels, three hundred and seven cervical-cord injuries were recorded. And between 1984 and 2009 there were a hundred and thirty-three instances of brain damage—not slowly accruing damage, as in the case of C.T.E., but damage upon impact. The injury incidence is far lower in most sports. And in the case of similarly treacherous activities, like gymnastics and boxing, far fewer people participate.

I highly recommend reading the entire, in-depth article. It's fascinating and well worth the time.

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