The scientific study of the brains of several dozen deceased former National Football League players has led to some unsettling discoveries.
Almost all the brains had a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repeated head injuries and can lead to depression, dementia and suicide. The first diagnosed case was found in Mike Webster, a former center for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s vital to do more research to better understand how the violent sport affects players of all ages — and to act with urgency. Football must be made safer, especially by better protecting players from head injuries. That should include the pee-wee leagues all the way through the high school, college and pro levels.
Doing nothing — which the National Football League did for far too long, paving the way for inaction throughout the sport — is not a viable option.
The Chiefs have been in the concussion-related news recently. This month, five former players filed a lawsuit as part of a bid to see what team officials knew about head injuries.
And the body of former Chief Jovan Belcher was exhumed so his brain could be examined to see whether he suffered from CTE. Belcher killed his girlfriend and then himself in late 2012.
Despite all the brain-related problems in football, some hard-core fans continue to complain about taking drastic moves that could make the sport less violent and thus “ruin” it.
That’s nonsense. Studies into head injuries are absolutely necessary to find ways to prevent them. Given football’s tremendous popularity, that research could help protect millions of young Americans who will play the sport in the future.
Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.