The issue floating around the NFL at this point is concussions, and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). This certain retired NFL player was only 59 when he had his brain scanned, and in about two years people around him began to notice some change, motor deficits like very simple tasks becoming very hard. Not being able to button his shirt properly, zip up his pants, tie his shoes all because of muscle twitching he developed and the decreased muscle mass in his shoulders and arms. This man had been playing football at the age of 11, going all the way up to the pro league and retiring at 33. Being at risks for concussions his whole life and taking constant blows to the head is what put him at risk for CTE. This situation happens all too many times to football players, who have played for so long and had a large number of hits to the head. The worst part about CTE is that they have not found a way to test for the head disease until after the person has died. Then the family must send the brain into a lab, allowing scientists to test the brain. Once they find the CTE they will report back to the family letting them know there loved one has been suffering from this trauma. The saddest part about the whole thing is that there is not much that doctors can to do help. All they can do is prescribe medicine to try and decrease the symptoms with little result. There are many researchers and scientists trying to solve this uprising issue, but is there really anything that can be done?
According to Anne Mckee, CTE was first diagnosed in 1928, when Dr. Harrison Martland when he described a group of boxers with having “punch drunk syndrome”. Then later in 2005, a pathologist named Benet Omalu published the first cases of CTE in an American Football player, and former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster. Shortly after the first case, the Concussion Legacy Foundation partnered with the Veterans Administration to form the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank led by Dr. Anne Mckee herslef. Out of 202 deceased former football players brains that were submitted and scanned, they found CTE in nearly 88 percent of them (177) (Goldman). That is a huge number of retired players who have had CTE found in their deceased brains. There have been recent pushes to more investigation on CTE and how to create ways to stop it, but is it really enough? According to researchers it is one of the biggest researches done on CTE and it only covered those who played football. Just one concussion could put you at risk of having neurological symptoms even after the concussion has been gone, these symptoms include problems with hearing, problems with concentration, confusion, speech or hearing difficulties, numbness or tingling in extremities, and headaches (Rapaport). It all depends on how you treat the concussion to determine how the outcome will be for you. The players who do not realize they have a concussion and the coaches and staff who do not know the symptoms of concussions, allowing the player to continue playing is part of the reason CTE is becoming an issue. Constant blows to the head without any treatment is the cause of concussions, and multiple untreated concussions can lead to developing CTE in the brain in later years of life. Getting the players and coaches trained on concussion protocol and have them be aware of the signs and symptoms is the first step to try and tackle concussions and CTE. When a player takes a blow to the head they should immediately be pulled to the sideline for a couple of plays to be evaluated to make sure they are not experiencing any signs of a concussion. Then if the player is looking like they are somewhat experiencing the symptoms they should be evaluated by a professional to determine whether they can return to the field or how many games they should be out to ensure safety. The NFL is somewhat enforcing more rules and policies to help the safety of the players such as the head to head contact foul that punishes the opposing team and if bad enough can fine the certain player targeting the other teams heads.
According to Daniel Rapaport in his Sports Illustrated concussion timeline for football, the first survey of head injuries in the NFL only went as far back as May of 2000. If you think about it concussions have been around since the NFL has started and just in the 2000’s have people been taking it like a serious issue. In that study made back in May 2000 they came to a conclusion that players with at least one concussion is 1.5 times more likely to have depression in their life, and just one concussion can put you at risk of developing the neurological symptoms like, , problems with hearing, and concentration, confusion, speech or hearing difficulties, numbness or tingling in extremities, and headaches (Rapaport). Also people also seem to be sensitive to light and noise, nervous or anxious, could be easily upset or angered, highly emotional, irregular sleep patterns and trouble falling asleep. This is very interesting to me because as a kid I played football from elementary school all the way through High School, so does that mean there was some chance I suffered a concussion and have the odds of developing depression or those neurological symptoms? Honestly, there is no real chance of finding out, the only way really to have your brain scanned would be after you have already passed away. Researchers are trying to find new ways to scan for CTE and concussions without the person already being passed but there has not really been any break through yet. Dr. Anne Mckee recently came out and said that her and her team of researchers have been doing some great work with researching CTE and concussions but there work is nowhere near complete. She said they will need around 100 million dollars in order to fully complete research. They reached out to the NFL saying that they need donations for the research, the NFL said they fully support what they are doing and will try to fund what they can. But Dr. Anne Mckee thinks otherwise, that the NFL will not send anywhere near the amount they need because the research results will be too extreme, only killing the NFL’s ratings hurting them badly in profits (Goldman). This is a very big contradiction for the NFL and keeps the question if the NFL is doing enough. They have made some rule changes and starting somewhat fining the players who obviously target other players heads, but there is plenty more that can be done. Without the players the NFL would make little to no profit so ensuring the safety of the players should be a huge priority to the league, not only to ensure constant revenue but also for the friends, family of the players, and the players safety. Manufactures have also tried to create helmets to decrease the amount of force of impact on the head and engineered technological solutions to better detect head impacts (Spradley). Actions are being taking by multiple different industries and researchers to try and stop the increasing numbers of concussions, but is it really enough?
The numbers of players who have reported suffering at least one concussion is very alarming, and not only at the professional level but every level of football. Even kids that play football in Middle School, or even High School have more than likely suffered from at least one concussion. Personally speaking, I played football my entire life and throughout that whole time I never went to the doctor and was told had a concussion and had to sit out some games. I did however get hit in the head really bad a couple times giving me an enormous headache and a couple symptoms for a week or so. Even after telling my coach what had just happened he sent me back into the game allowing the head injury to get worse. That is what is wrong with the coaches in todays’ sports, they are so unaware of what the symptoms are they just send the player back in the game without a second thought. According to Brandon Spradley, Wirt Edwards, and Abreu Marcos in their scholar reviewed journal “The War Against Concussions” 50% of High School athletes, and 70% of College athletes did not report a concussion because they were not aware of the sign and symptoms. This goes back to the first step to eliminating concussions is to have every player and staff informed on the signs and symptoms of concussions. Once the coaches and staff realize the basics of concussions, they will be more aware of players safety when it comes to head injuries. Then taking the player out of the game allowing them to get the needed time to rest and come back well. According to Dr. Ellenbogen, the chairmen of the Department of Neurological Surgery at University of Washington Medicine, and co-chairmen of the Head, Neck, and Spine Committee of the NFL league, by tracking eye movements, they have been able to better access the brain and determine whether the player has suffered from a concussion or not (Spradley). New techniques and ways have been arising helping the league in determining whether the player has a concussion after being pulled from the game. After being looked at by the coaches they should call a medical professional to fully evaluate the player, giving the final word whether the player can return to the field, or give the player a time limit they must sit out of activities. Besides physical rest, there is no medicine out that is effective in treating the symptoms of sports concussions (Spradley). According to Brandon Spradley, a player is at even greater risk of repeating the head injury the few days that follow the concussion, and could be more likely to face greater complications later in life if suffered from the same head trauma over and over again. That means that it is very important to evaluate players who seemed to have suffered a head injury to ensure they sit out the amount of time needed, so there is no later complications with the player. The constant over and over concussions with no time to fully heal is what could lead to the player developing CTE later in life after they retire. Stopping the concussions now rather than later could be the determining factor to saving someone from developing CTE. CTE is not only found in retired football players either, according the Tom Goldman in a recent study of 202 deceased football players of all level 177 had CTE found in the brains, three of 14 who only played in High School, 48 of 53 players in college, and 9 of 14 in semiprofessional leagues. This study is pretty eye opening to the people who played football their whole life. It makes you wonder whether it Is worth it to put yourself at risk to play the sport. For people like me the love of the sport will always outweigh the consequences. As of right now there is no medicine or surgery that can help with CTE or even find out if you have it or not while you are still living. Causing ex-football players to have to live with the symptoms, struggling in everyday life. All of the research done so far has only been on people who played football in their lives, not even all the people who played any other sport or suffered a concussion doing everyday activities. Even simple tasks like tying your shoe, trying to button up or put on a shirt could be very hard for people suffering from CTE.
Concussions and CTE is a very big issue in todays’ time, and to some it is not taken nearly as serious enough. Coaches and players not fully knowing the symptoms of concussions allowing the player who just took a monstrous hit to the head back in the game, only allowing the head injury to worsen. The NFL not being serious about giving necessary funds to researchers and scientists trying to discover new ways to prevent concussions and try to develop some medicine to help those who have suffered from them, purely out of greed. The NFL wants to keep their ratings up to ensure the max number of profit coming in. Overall, above everything else the players safety should be the number one priority to the league, and not just the players but anyone who has suffered a concussion or is living life with CTE symptoms. Concussions and CTE seems to be unstoppable as of right now, having no medicine to help those with symptoms, or even being able to determine whether someone has CTE while they are still alive. But researchers and scientists are doing everything they can to help prevent them with new equipment, trying to develop new medicine, and developing new ways to determine if a player has CTE or not. The more we are blind to this somewhat invincible problem, the worse it may get.