The NFL’s Headache

It’s no secret that football is a risky sport. Injury is inevitable, but according to recent results of Boston University’s CTE Center, head injuries are probably more common and severe in football than we think.

The study examined 202 brains, 111 of them from former NFL players, and all but one of them were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain disease caused by recurring head trauma and concussions that can lead to memory loss, confusion, mental illness, and eventually dementia.

This would seem like prime time for the NFL to step up and bring more research and protection to players. Unfortunately it looks like the opposite is happening.

Promoting Player Health?

The NFL recently announced ending their relationship with the National Institute of Health (NIH) with $16 million in unspent funds for brain research. Even if the NFL believes it is doing enough to prevent concussions, then are they doing the right thing by backing away from the NIH partnership, given the study results?

We think not. There doesn’t appear to be a proactive NFL stance or initiative on player’s brain health on the horizon. With the facts at hand, the situation looks potentially dangerous for players going forward.

How the NFL responds to the crisis in the long-term will set precedent for future player’s health- and potentially the game as a whole. Their response could also affect the way other sports, like the NHL and the National Boxing association, tackle the CTE crisis. Could we see new, safer helmets and protective equipment, or should more widespread changes to contact rules go into effect?

Only time will tell, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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