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Ear to the Ground

NFL Players Risk More Than Broken Bones

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Posted on Jan 28, 2009
Ben Roethlisberger
AP photo / Chris Gardner

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Bart Scott (57) slams the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger to the turf for a sack that shook up the Steelers quarterback.

Scientists have made new discoveries about the traumatic head injuries sustained by football players, including Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will play in the Super Bowl this Sunday. Just one concussion can lead to dementia-like symptoms years later and multiple incidents can bring about severe brain damage and perhaps even drug addiction and suicide.

Los Angeles Times:

Researchers said a biopsy of the brain of nine-year NFL veteran Tom McHale, who died last May of a drug overdose at age 45, showed that he suffered from a severe degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It was caused by repeated concussions.

The biopsy was the sixth out of six performed on deceased NFL players between the ages of 25 and 50 that showed evidence of such severe damage. All six men suffered emotional and behavioral problems after their playing days were over, often culminating in erratic behavior, drug abuse and suicide or overdose.

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By P. T., January 29, 2009 at 11:34 am Link to this comment

Disabled retired players have to fight like crazy to get compensation for their football injuries.  They are no longer of any value to the game, just an expense cutting into the money being made.

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By Abe, January 29, 2009 at 7:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Repeated concussions were a suspected cause behind the horrific end of professional wrestler Chris Benoit.

I’m not sure anything can be done to punish BYU’s malfeasance.  Perhaps a lawsuit for more than 10 million…

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By CJ, January 28, 2009 at 11:22 pm Link to this comment

Quarterbacks are particularly susceptible to concussions, mostly as a result of defensive ends and linebackers hell-bent on accumulating sacks. More sacks, more money, when contract time comes around.

I’m a pro football fan of four decades.

Sometimes, regretfully a fan when I read stories like this one. I never heard that story, Still Life. Hard to imagine BYU put up $10 million to make story go away, given how common the injury. But yeah, college football is semipro football.

It’s always about the money too. While I feel a little guilt for being a fan of such a violent sport (of hockey too), I’ve got zero use for liberal argument. Except regarding kids playing Pee Wee football. Through high-school. Except that’s how—same as with most other endeavors in life—athletes learn of any talent and then hone that talent. Not likely ever to become professionals, but with the dream.

I went to a high-school that was state champ two years running. The team had a stellar running back (who shall remain unnamed here). He was heavily recruited by colleges, eventually wound up at big-time, Big Twelve university, on full scholarship. He never finished college. He died before finishing college. Not of anything football-related.

If any gets my drift? Pee Wee through high-school should incorporate different rules. A kid linebacker doesn’t need to make like Butkus, Singletary or now, James Harrison, currently of Steelers. Much less like Deacon Jones, Lawrence Taylor or Reggie White, all “sack-masters” during their times. All these guys too were or currently are (in the case of Harrison) at risk.

Fans (certainly of Kansas City Chiefs) will recall Derrick Thomas, who was killed in a car wreck. Reggie died young too, not of football.

Appointed task is to drill the quarterback, or the running back in the case of hand-off or check. Same for safeties who blitz, or along with corners as both “seek and destroy” wide-outs. The game is violent. It’s supposed to be violent. Better on the field than, say, in Iraq. Hell, soccer is violent. So’s basketball, under the hoop. Then there’s little girls tossing themselves across narrow beams.

I’ve no use for liberal argument regarding contact sports because life is a risky business, and because, because, because…the obvious. Which liberals are forever denying. Not that there shouldn’t be efforts to render all of life less risky. But there is no chance of reducing risk to zero. Not by banning smoking and not by building speed-bumps, which have become a veritable viral plague in West Los Angeles, particularly in Santa Monica, bastion of low-brow, upper-middle-class liberalism.

I was once guilt-trip lectured by a liberal pal regarding my penchant for pro football, as I once was by another regarding a sheepskin coat. That guy unconscious of his cowhide shoes. The first an NBA fan who obviously never played under the hoop, where I did as a kid in high school. I recall falling flat on my back from a few feet above the floor, knocked down by opposing player. I thought I’d never breath again. I hit my head on a diving board at age 13. No one thought about concussions at the time.

As a culture, we’ve become obsessed with the idea of immortality. Worse than that, we delay living as we absurdly aim to live forever. 

Not to go on, but I seriously doubt that any pro player regrets a single day of practicing and playing, aside from by-now big money. Ask any pro player. Without exception he will tell you that whatever the risk he never thought to do other than play the game. That is, he never thought to do other than live in the here and now doing what he most loved doing. 

Including Mike Webster (RIP) of older Steelers, and Jim Otto, both great, great players.

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By P. T., January 28, 2009 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment

Just look at all the punch-drunk boxers.

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By Still Life Living, January 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just ask Danny Plater if he is still alive.  He played wide reciever at BYU in the 1980s.  He had a concussion after a game, where BYU’s doctors also learned that he had a brain tumor.  But Danny was to be on Good Morning America the next day so they didn’t want to worry him.

Danny followed Jim McMahon to the Chicago Bears, where he once again had a concussion.  They told him about the tumor and said that it was too big to operate.  And if he got hurt one more time in the head he would probably be dead.  BYU paid $10 million to make the story go away.

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