By Ken Reed
As a football-loving country, we’ve collectively exhibited cultural avoidance behavior when it comes to the seriousness of brain trauma and CTE in sports like football and hockey.
This holds true for the players that love the game, including the adults playing in the NFL.
Most NFL players are at least somewhat familiar with CTE. But a majority of them haven’t studied it in any depth whatsoever. They haven’t reviewed all the relevant research regarding blows to the head and long-term brain health.
However, you can no longer count two-time pro bowl tight end Julius Thomas amongst the head-in-the-sand crowd.
Thomas has retired from the NFL to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology, with a focus on the study of brain trauma. Thomas said his big interest is in “investigating the effects of contact sports on brain trauma and neurobehavioral performance” and will participate in research to “identify early warning signs of brain disease.”
“Truthfully, it (brain disease) wasn’t something openly discussed a lot while I was playing,” said Thomas.
“There were offhand references, but for the most part, it was something we knew we were at risk for but had no idea what the risk really was. That surprised a lot of people I spoke with. And what I quickly discovered is that there was a ton of brain trauma research that I was completely unaware of, but also a ton of research that still needed to be conducted.
“In those moments I started to feel aligned, to feel a sort of calling to study brain trauma. It just sort of fit. I knew I wanted to help and knew that this would be a great way to help football players, to be that person who could help them understand what we all are at risk of. I felt inside that this was stuff I needed to understand.”
Moving along the change continuum — awareness, understanding, attitude change, behavior change — can be a long process. But it starts with awareness and understanding.
It’s good news that Julian Thomas is going to be helping in those areas.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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