NFL owners have more to worry about these days than just the work stoppage with the players. The evidence continues to mount that repetitive blows to the head — both concussive and sub-concussive –from football contact can lead to depression, violent and erratic behavior, and other mental disorders.

Several researchers, including pathologists Dr. Bennet Omalu and Dr. Ann McKee, have found brain damage, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), in a growing number of deceased NFL players.

McKee’s research team recently found CTE in former NFL star Dave Duerson. Duerson had suspected he had CTE for awhile. In a final note before committing suicide at age 50, Duerson asked researchers to analyze his brain. He shot himself in the chest instead of the head to preserve his brain for analysis.

“Dave Duerson had the classic pathology of [CTE] and severe involvement of all the [brain regions] that affect judgment, inhibition, impulse, mood control and memory,” McKee said.

Meanwhile, the NFL seems to be employing a variety of legal and public relations tactics designed to distance the league from any culpability.

“This shows that the NFL is frightened about getting sued,” Dr. Gabe Mirkin, sports medicine pioneer and erstwhile Redskins consultant, told Washington City Paper. “Mark my words: The NFL is going to be at the end of a lawsuit where a guy says they should be paying for this or that criminal behavior, because some guy got hit in the head too much playing football, and a jury will be convinced of that. And that is a reasonable argument. The brain controls everything. And there’s accumulating evidence to show that getting hit in the head can cause anything to change — thought processes, mood, anything. The NFL has to act like it’s taking action.”

While we continue to monitor the latest research on sports-related concussions, the League of Fans proposes that, at a minimum, all sports leagues — at all levels — be required to implement an education campaign on concussions and a research-based policy for preventing and treating them.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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