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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

True, athletic brain injury isn't really a laughing matter -- even expressed in the dry, dry, dry manner of the Saturday Morning Breakfast comic strip. (See the full strip here.)

But you do have to wonder sometimes what's going through the heads not of injured players, but of some college and professional sports administrators and spokesmen. You know, the ones who talk about the importance of their athletic programs, while talking around the by now well-known consequences of repeated blows to the head. Maybe a little laughter would help these benighted souls understand the absurdity of their positions?

The latest NFL player tragedy, coincidentally, played out just a couple of days before the release of a new study. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine studied the brains of deceased military and football players [abstract]. From CNN:
A study published [December 3] in the journal Brain, the most comprehensive look at CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] published thus far, adds fuel to the discussion, especially as it relates to professional football players

Of the 35 players, 34 of them at the professional level, who had brain tissue sampled posthumously for the study, all but one showed evidence of disease.

CTE begins when repeated blows to the brain are not allowed to heal. With each successive blow, damage builds and a dense, abnormal protein called tau accumulates.

In its later stages, CTE can lead to things like rage, aggression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.
It's true that we won't have a chance to study Jovan Belcher's brain. It may be true (or not) that his girlfriend had recently told him he wasn't the father of her child. And maybe in the law's eyes, none of that matters: all that matters is that Belcher's finger pulled the trigger.

But every football player's violent, off-the-field death tacks another big question mark to the claims that football and similar sports do nothing but good for the players (and ultimately the sport). If these people -- the apologists -- were majoring at their own campuses in basic logic, they'd have flunked out long ago. Maybe it's time for a study of their brains: maybe the repeated blows of bad news and contrary facts have simply rendered them unable to connect the dots between A and B. Maybe they're the ones who need the helmets?

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