Head Trauma Caused by Football Deemed “Unsafe”

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Head Trauma Caused by Football Deemed “Unsafe”

Wilson Gustaveson, Editor in Chief

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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or C.T.E., is a degenerative disease caused by excessive blows to the head. Commonly found in football players, this disease is a huge health threat, but not enough precaution is being taken to prevent this crippling disease. Bennet Omalu, the leading scientist of finding a cure to this head traumatic disease, believes that about 90% of football players may suffer from it. The symptoms of this disease. include disorientation, headaches, and dizziness.  After further degeneration, more symptoms include memory loss, instability, erratic behavior, poor judgment, and sudden bursts of anger and rage.

“I think that head trauma and diseases like C.T.E. are a real threat to football players,” Tyson Owens, varsity player said. “We know this threat when we step on the field.”

Player precaution is one thing, but when rules are enforced to improve safety, they are heading on the right track. Recent rules have been added to ensure safety. Some of these changes in recent years have been conducting pregame medical assessments of players, and on-field and postgame assessments of players involved in hard hits or blocks, and moving the kickoff spot five yards forward, reducing the number of kick return injuries.

Awareness to C.T.E. has begun. The movie “Concussion” was directed and written by Peter Landesman, follows the story of Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) who tirelessly searches to find the cause of the death of Pittsburgh Steelers Center Mike Webster, who mysteriously died in the back of his pickup truck. This leads him to the discovery of C.T.E., and the rest of the movie follows the events of the N.F.L. finally exposed to the dangers of this terrible disease. This example is present in the movie, but a real life example of a C.T.E., took place in Fred McNeill.

Fred McNeill was a linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings for twelve years before his untimely death in November of 2015. After starting a family, he became a partner and helped start a law firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. McNeill had everything he could want in life. During his post-career, McNeill began to piece together a picture perfect, post-NFL life. He was married with two kids, living in a great house in a perfect city. McNeill became the first living person to ever be diagnosed with C.T.E. All other players that have contracted the disease were diagnosed post-mortem.

At first, Fred was affected by little things, like forgetting what he was doing or having frequent headaches. Slowly, his easy going, kind personality started to turn into a rage monster, who had trouble remembering where he lived. While it may have seemed like early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, McNeill was only 40.  After his partnership with the law firm fell apart, things really started to spin out of control. His family’s money supply slowly depleted, this degenerative disease furthered its control over McNeill. Life and family as he knew it, began to crumble apart.

“There are sometimes where the father is the stronghold of the family or the anchor,” Gavin McNeill, son of Fred, said during and interview with CNN. “If you lose that, everything kind of falls apart. That’s kind of what happened for us. It looked like financial issues at first; it looked like marital issues, and they separated; then it looked like just depression.”

As he was soon as “diagnosed” by Dr. Omalu to have C.T.E., McNeill found a home at the Silverado Memory Beverley Care Community. McNeill’s sad story only adds to the fact that we need to improve head safety in football.

For the majority of this article, football players have been the topic of this article, but not just football players can contract C.T.E. C.T.E is believed to be caused by severe head trauma, which is present in the sport of football, but not required. This disease is also commonly found in boxers and some members of the military.

“There are a number of cases in people who never saw an athletic field.” M.D. Robert C. Cantu, said. Cantu gave the examples of “former military members, people who have suffered from gram mal seizures, autistic children who rocked and banged their heads, abuse victims, and even people who were shot out of a cannon as part of a circus act.” C.T.E. truly is a terrible disease and that has destroyed families, and ruined the minds of extraordinary men and women.

The University of California recently underwent a study about brain degenerative diseases. Some of the results that were found in this study concluded how similar Alzheimer’s disease is to C.T.E. To start off this list of similarities, both Alzheimer’s and C.T.E. are classified as “tauopathies,” a category of diseases when tau protein clumps together in the brain cells.,

“As we develop new therapies to halt progression and neurodegeneration in [C.T.E. and Alzheimer’s] conditions,” Amanda Woerman, Ph.D., assistant adjunct professor of neurology and a member of the IND, said. “We may find that we need a drug specifically designed for both Alzheimer’s and C.T.E., and another therapy for Pick’s disease, [another brain disease with Alzheimer’s like symptoms], and so on.”

We must take C.T.E. to more serious measures, to prevent the untimely deaths, and torn family’s like those of Fred McNeill. You may never know when your family is the next one to be affected by C.T.E.