My Brain Hurts!
While it was funny as hell when Monty Python ran the recurring skit of men with handkerchiefs on their heads screaming that their “brains hurt,” a new study from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston School of Medicine finds that brain trauma from concussions suffered by athletes is deep, lasting and stunningly debilitating – for life.
And that's not so funny.
The study looked at the brains of dead NFL players and found some really scary stuff; namely, that “small” concussions suffered by players over and over and over throughout their high school, college, and pro careers cause deep and far-reaching brain traumas that do not heal.
In fact, these brains – brains from men who died between the ages of 18 and 45 (YES, EIGHTEEN!) looked more like the brains of 70 year olds with dementia.
In recent years, the NFL has begun to get more serious about head trauma, mandating that players with demonstrative concussions sit out games more than they had in the past. However, as this study shows, demonstrative (major) concussions are not the only cause of this problem. It is the many, many small concussions and their cumulative affect that is the culprit here, and most small concussions either go unnoticed or ignored.
Moreover, the very culture of football – and of wrestling and of boxing and of all other manner of contact sports – is such that athletes don’t want to sit out, don’t want to be labeled a “sissy”, and thus are drawn back into contact like a moth to a flame.
When you start seeing 18 year-old's brains with this sort of trauma – as this study shows – you realize this is an inherent problem at all levels of contact sports, not just pro levels.
The sad – very sad – story of all-pro Super Bowl winning Patriots’ linebacker Ted Johnson is illustrative of what lies ahead for far too many athletes: Johnson received over 100 concussions that he can “remember”, and for years after retiring, he was unable – due to fatigue/exhaustion and depression – to leave his bed for more than a few minutes a day to see his kids. He is getting treatment now, but this sort of syndrome is not reversible.
I’ll keep this in mind next time I bitch about the “outrageous” contracts that pro athletes receive.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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