Last Tuesday, PBS aired a documentary called “Frontline: League of Denial” that covered the overwhelming evidence that NFL players are at a far greater risk for dementia and various other neurological disorders. It also covered the NFL’s attempts to deny this link and hide the data at every turn.
Simply put: see it. Even if you think “Well, of course people who get tackled ten times a week by 300 pound lineman” (the equivalent of a small car crash…ten times a week) “will have their bell rung.” The sheer level of brain trauma subjected to NFL players will surprise you, as will the links to emotional disorders like depression, and full blown meltdowns where the players may not even realize what they’re doing or where they’re at. [I’ll remember this the next time I see a news story where some player has murdered their girlfriend and went on a car chase with the police.]
In short: football is dangerous. It’s not just the NFL players who see effects from this. They also tested college players and even one high school player who tested positive for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Even players who don’t have a well documented history of sustaining concussions can get this brain disorder from all the “sub-concussive” action that is part of nearly every play (the jostling, the impacts, the being in the middle of a human dog pile, etc.).
We’re talking about a system that doesn’t give two shits about the young men it profits off of. They can get their ACL torn in high school, and never be heard from again, let alone receive any reimbursement for their medical bills. They can get their collarbone snapped in college, and quietly lose their scholarship the next semester. And even when they finally do get paid in the NFL, the league has resisted paying out money to treat the neurological disorders of former players, and has never issued a clear statement saying that their brain disorders are even caused by their time playing in the NFL. [They usually attribute it to a player’s steroid or alcohol use.]
The question is asked to a neurological doctor “Would you let your 8 to 12 year old sons play pee wee football?” And her answer is no. After watching this film—-and any interviews with former players that sustained concussions—-everyone’s answer should be no.