If you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers then you likely know the story of Hall of Fame Center Mike Webster. After years of butting heads with the guy across the line of scrimmage, Webster’s life was a downward spiral of sad and disturbing proportions that was ultimately profiled in the movie “Concussion.”
It was thru the study of his brain that Dr. Bennett Omalu discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE which was caused by repetitive trauma to the head. Even if you’re an average football fan you already know about CTE so let’s move on.
I admit that I was stubborn when it came to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s move to make football safer. As much as I understood why he was doing it I also hated that the game I grew up with was going away. While I’ve adjusted to the new, safer game of football there are many who are still trying to point out how dangerous the game is.
With every new case of CTE that is determined, journalists flock to their keyboards to admonish the NFL and tell them how barbaric and horrible their game is. You know what? It is barbaric. These truly are modern day gladiators who don’t play a contact spot, they play a collision sport. It’s a sport that isn’t physical, it’s violent and injury is common place.
But rather than try to praise the league for moving in a generally positive direction regarding head trauma, the media continues to crush the league every chance they get.
Other than getting more clicks to their sites, what is the real reason they keep writing about one player after another being diagnosed with CTE? Is it really that surprising that players from prior generations who are dying these days have forms of CTE?
It was revealed this week that former Oakland Raiders’ star Ken Stabler had CTE. As a quarterback, maybe he didn’t take the blows to his head that a running back or a lineman may have but after all of the high school, college and professional ball he played isn’t it common sense to suggest he might have it?
Apparently that doesn’t matter because either way the media is going to jump all over it because it’s football. They will demand the league make immediate changes that make it safer. They want less hitting, more doctors on the field, less kids playing the game, etc.
Why isn’t there a CTE discussion about hockey? Why isn’t there a CTE discussion about boxing or pro wrestling? What about a CTE discussion for X-Games participants? This is where the story turns though doesn’t it?
X-Games legend Dave Mirra died this week from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 41. He left behind a wife and two daughters. What 41-year old, healthy man does this? Was it CTE? Credit USA Today writer A.J. Lopez with at least suggesting it.
“This is young man that had a pretty rugged sports career and took a lot of injuries in his career,” said Thomas, a friend of Mirra. “You have to give pause, think and wonder as we hear about brain trauma in football and other sports, whether that played a factor. I don’t know if that’s a case.
“I hope we solve this mystery like we did with Junior Seau and others, and learn from this.”
Maybe CTE was an issue with Mirra and maybe it wasn’t but football needs to no longer be the only focus for CTE studies. We must credit the NFL with at least trying to push safer football for everyone who plays it but at the same time don’t other sports need to do the same? Youth soccer recently announced plans for kids under 14 to stop using their heads to “head the ball.” They didn’t make this decision out of the blue. They made it because even they knew repeated blows to the head were causing CTE.
Concussion rates among soccer players often rival those of football players yet it has only been football that was in the crosshairs of the media. That has to change. If we are going to make CTE an issue then we have to admit that it’s not just football players who get it. Perhaps the NFL and youth football aren’t moving fast enough for the media but I say again, “at least they are doing something.”
Football is not for the faint of heart and for anyone to play it and not recognize the risks then that is on them. But there are other sports that need close attention paid to them for similar reasons. Until the media focuses on CTE in general rather than “CTE in football,” then maybe we’ll get somewhere.