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Aug-26-2013 12:26printcomments

Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Football Players

Dozens of former players — including 34 who played in the NFL — have been diagnosed with CTE, a neurodegenerative disease linked to dementia, memory loss and depression.

Football injuries

(SAN FRANCISCO) - Another football season is upon us. It is time for the National Football League (NFL), college and university officials, and even high schools to seriously address the safety, or lack thereof, of playing football. As the season progresses, the chance of injury increases. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a national public health crisis of concussions in sports – estimated to total four million annually, not including the possibility that tens of millions more “sub-concussive” head blows contribute to youth mental deterioration. John Madden, former college and NFL coach, and commentator remarked, "I’ve always said that any player that plays one regular season NFL game — his body will never be the same the rest of his life."

pilot study at UCLA performed brain scans that revealed images of the protein that causes football-related brain damage — the first time researchers have identified signs of the crippling disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, in living players.  Dozens of former players — including 34 who played in the NFL — have been diagnosed with CTE, a neurodegenerative disease linked to dementia, memory loss and depression. The disease, which researchers say is triggered by repeated head trauma, can be confirmed only by examining the brain after death.  

In the 2012-13 season, 160 players went down with a head injury.

The late Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster was the first NFL player diagnosed with CTE.  CTE was also discovered in former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012, and in former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in 2011.

Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, has suffered two concussions already in his young career, and Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has suffered four concussions so far.

In addition, players suffer other serious injuries each year.  For example, the 2013-14 regular season hasn't even started and over ninety players 
are already injured, some out for the season.  These injuries include broken bones, hamstrings, Achilles tendon injuries, dislocated/fractured hips, and torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)

I will always remember the sight of Jim Otto, former center for the Oakland Raiders, on television.  Otto completed 308 consecutive games, punishing his body, resulting in nearly 40 surgeries, including 28 knee operations (nine of them during his playing career alone) and multiple joint replacements. His joints are riddled with arthritis, and he has debilitating back and neck problems.  He had his right leg amputated in 2007.  He suffered numerous concussions.  Admittedly, Otto took  "playing with or through pain" to an absurd level.  But should the NFL or the Oakland Raiders or their physicians have allowed Otto to abuse his body for the sake of the game?  Otto claims it was all worth it to be one of the gladiators to satisfy the blood thirst of American couch potatoes.  

More than 4,000 lawsuits have been filed by former players against the NFL and equipment makers Riddell and Easton, alleging that the league hid known concussion risks, causing high rates of dementia, depression, and even suicide.  If successful, the lawsuits could be worth $1 billion or more.   At some point, however, current and future players must assume some of the risk of injuries.  They now know or should know that football is a dangerous sport, leading to possible injury or even death.  Yet, the prospect of a rich contract too often trumps concern for health and safety considering that he average salary by position ranges from $1.98 million for quarterbacks to $863,000 for tight ends.  Drew Brees, the highest paid player, makes total earnings of $51 million, which includes a salary of $40 million plus endorsements of $11 million

Will football be banned because of the unreasonable risk of serious injury to players?  Absolutely not.  Why, because there is too much money involved.  According to Forbes.  In 2011, the average NFL football team was worth $1.04 billion.  During the 2010 season the average average revenues for the 32 teams was $261 million or $30.6 per team. 

A redesign of equipment, especially helmets, may help, but football by its very nature is violent.  When 200 or even 300 pound players crash into other players, the danger of serious injury is predictably going to be high no matter what the equipment players wear.

Can football be played at an acceptable safety level?   And what is an acceptable safety level?  Until these questions are answered, I suggest, with apologies to Willie Nelson, "Mammas don't let your babies grow up to be football players."

Read tips for maintaining a healthy brain in this book by the Amen Clinics.

_________________________________ writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address

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Luke Easter August 30, 2013 7:28 pm (Pacific time)

Programs are shifting towards academics, Rome wasn't built in a day. Still, thousands out side of football have jobs because of it. During the last lockout I saw a story on a woman who did the players laundry. She was forced to enroll her kids in public schools because she could no longer afford private. No, the NFL and College Football employs too many to shut it down and standards are raising not getting lower. "Marketable Skills" can be taught just like the ability to read a playbook. Too many kids and their families would be lost w/o football. Ever hear of Texas? Better not walk down (not a back ally) main street with that attitude. Don't hate the game, fix it. Obviously U R a Ping Pong or Curling Lover. I rather do 2 to 3 years in the NFL than 30 years on a garbage truck. That job will always be there but once the window for the Pro's closes, Goodbye Charlie.

Steve Moylett August 28, 2013 1:21 pm (Pacific time)

Luke the key is "marketable skills." Standards continue to get lowered so some players can play for 2 to 3 years, maybe more if they Redshirt. The NFL can easily set up something similar to what baseball has in regards to their minor leagues. Time to turn things around in education, beginning in grade school. Have you seen the graduation rates for some of these top schools? Hell you have some who are walking around with degrees who cannot even read above the 4th grade level. They are the ones being hurt...I did ROTC in college, then went into the military in 1964-1968. I was planning on a career, until Mr. TET said "NO!" We can still have great football with players who can also compete in the classroom. A former player on my team, Terry Baker at OSU, certainly proved that. And yes I agree that the team experience with good responsible coaches is a super character-building experience...but academics should always be primary when in school.

Luke Easter August 28, 2013 6:52 am (Pacific time)

100% of Nothing is still Nothing. However, even if only 50% graduate (or even less) that's still something. $$$ from colllege athletics is in the BILLIONS. Ohio State Football beings in revenues upwards of $200 million annually to local business in and around Columbus. Just think of how many people have jobs outside of football because of football. BTW, if degrees were awarded for athletic performance then would not 90% + receive a diploma? As for your playing days, did you or did you not hone leadership skills and expand networking? Did it teach you not to fear and to step out into the unknown? Advance in the face of adversity? That you can accomplish/achieve against insurmountable odds? Football will seperate the Men from the Boys. Do you want to go into battle with boys? New American Standard Bible: Deuteronomy 20:8, "Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say, 'Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers' hearts melt like his heart.'

Steve Moylett August 27, 2013 8:50 am (Pacific time)

Luke at one time I would be 100% in support of your position, but considering the very low numbers of college football athletes who actually finish college with marketable skills, scholarships simply need to be re-assessed. I say put the priority on academic achievement, and for those who cannot cut it, then, at least in taxpayer supported state schools, end their scholarships. Let them have the chance to bring their academic performance, say one year, if not, then that's it. We need to upgrade our educational performances across the board. As far as private colleges, well take them out of the competition unless they can prove their players are meeting similar academic performance standards. Evaluations would be totally anonymous so as to maintain color-blind fairness. After all college degrees should be awarded for academic achievement, not for athletic performance. Hell let the NFL set-up a system like baseball and allow some low performing student players to go there for training/experience. Note: I play 3 years Pop Warner, 4 years High School and 3 years in College, Division I.

Luke Easter August 26, 2013 3:33 pm (Pacific time)

No! Do let them grow up to be football players. However, devise better/safer, "state of the Art Equipment" so a diagnosis of, "CTE" will no longer be part of the game billions of fans know as the, "NFL" and all levels leading up to the pinnacle of sports Entertainment. Many kids would never experience a college level education were it not for Footbal. Not to mention the ledership skills, chairties benefited, cultural advancment, monetary opportunities, etc., etc. Because you'd have to X-out the NHL as well, the greatest team international sport in existence. No! It's not basketball, sccocer or baseball. Due to the fact that, "CTE" is not an issue aside from the occassional scoccer, "Head Butt" and those guys are smart enough to keep that few and far between.

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