Slowly But Surely Football Players Are Starting to Understand the Seriousness of CTE
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
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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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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