Letter from a reader:

Football Concussions and Super Bowl 50

February 15, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


At Super Bowl 50, in the third quarter, Carolina Panther wide receiver Corey Brown leaped high into the air to snag a long pass. As he fell backward to the ground his head hit the turf with a thud. He lay there for a few moments before being helped up by a teammate and then he walked wobbly off the field. He was taken to the locker room and was diagnosed with a “head injury” and did not return to the game.

Later in the third quarter, Shaquil Barrett of the Denver Broncos was blind-sided as he went downfield after a kick. He was taken from the field with a suspected concussion.

These two injuries were a nightmare for the NFL (National Football League), which absolutely did not want the millions of people watching the game to be thinking about how dangerous the game of football is, particularly at a time when concussions in football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)1, the brain disease caused by concussions, have been in the news on a regular basis and the film Concussion is playing in movie theaters across the country, educating all those watching it about the dangers of football.

The bad press for the NFL was at a high point this week before Super Bowl 50 when two former Super Bowl quarterbacks were diagnosed with having CTE.

Ken Stabler, who played in Super Bowl IX for the Oakland Raiders and was just inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, was diagnosed with Stage 3 of the 4 stages of CTE. Stabler, who died of cancer this past summer, had severe memory problems, so his family sent his brain to Boston University to be studied and it showed the disease was “widespread throughout his brain.”

Earl Morrall, who played in Super Bowl III for the Baltimore Colts and started 11 games for the Miami Dolphins during their perfect season in 1972 but did not get to play in their Super Bowl game, was found to have Stage 4 CTE. His family disclosed this to the New York Times this past week, saying that after he died in 2014 at age 79, they decided to have his brain examined because he had some “complications with Parkinson’s disease.”

Then, just a day before the Super Bowl, an article appeared in the San Jose Mercury News about former Super Bowl quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, Joe Kapp, who has been battling Alzheimer’s disease. Kapp, who has concerns about having CTE, which at this time can only be discovered after death, is participating in a neurological study at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. He told the Mercury News that “he has promised to donate his brain to UCSF neurologists” for the study of CTE.

Kapp, who played in the Rose Bowl and later coached for the University of California at Berkeley, talked about his conflicting views about his grandson playing football for Cal. “Don’t let your son be a football player,” he said, “and here I am letting my grandson play.”

About an hour and a half before Super Bowl 50 started, James Brown of CBS did an interview with Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. With every question posed to Goodell about concussions and the dangers of concussions, he fended them off by talking about how safe football is with new concussion protocols and new equipment and turf technology. When Brown asked what Goodell tells mothers about their children playing football, Goodell only talked about how “great” the game is and how there are only benefits for those playing it.

Fuck you, Goodell! Say that to the face of all the families whose loved ones suffered from CTE caused by your “great” game. Mothers, don’t listen to Goodell. Listen to Joe Kapp. “Don’t let your son be a football player.”

1. “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920s. However, recent reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE in retired professional football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.  These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.  The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.” (Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy)


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