November 10, 2017

NFL Facing Crisis Over CTE

Aaron Lavitsky ‘19

America's most popular sport is facing a serious crisis and may be in danger – and it's all just in their heads.
Football, being a full-contact sport, obviously comes with a high risk of injury. Injuries like concussions are common and the National Football League has taken action to try and minimize these injuries and keep players on the field as long as possible. Until this past decade, however, the NFL did not account for the severity of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a very dangerous and deadly disease which may just be killing football.
A study from Boston University this September showed that of 111 brains of deceased NFL players studied, all but one were positive for CTE.
CTE was first discovered by Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist, while he was conducting an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster in 2009. Omalu made several attempts to bring his study to light but the NFL did not admit the connection between football and CTE until 2016.
Webster’s life was derailed by CTE, culminating in his suicide. Suicidal tendencies is one of the main symptoms of CTE, along with depression, emotional instability, anxiety and substance abuse.
Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, killed himself while in prison serving a life sentence for murder. Hernandez’s brain was found to have the highest level of CTE ever, and he was only 27 years old.
Even though CTE is such a major issue, not many people know just how serious it is, including Golda Och Academy students and teachers.
Out of 60 students and teachers polled with varying levels of knowledge about football, 28 were unfamiliar with CTE. Many of the remaining participants that had some knowledge of the condition were strong in their remarks against the NFL.
“Football is an unsafe and stupid sport,” junior Ayala Jones said. “Obviously bashing heads with people will lead to head injury.”
Sophomore Ally Landau echoed Jones’ sentiments and expressed her worry about the players themselves.
“The helmets clearly don't have enough protection and the NFL needs to do something about it,” she said.
Freshman Rafi Colton-Max, an avid football fan, was especially shocked when he heard the news about Hernandez.
“The consequences are horrible,” he said. “There is really nothing else to say but that.”
The effects of the new information about CTE are very polarizing. On the one hand, football is one of the most popular sports in the U.S. and hundreds of players play despite the possible consequences. On the other hand, fans across the country know the risks of CTE and are continuously worried for their favorite players.

Whatever the case is, CTE will be on our minds for a long time.

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