Every parent wants their child to find a sport in which they’ll excel, get exercise, form friendships. But after recent research into trauma-related brain injuries, many of us are eliminating football from the list of possible activities.
By now, most people are familiar with the sad story of Aaron Hernandez. He was a football star who played for the New England Patriots in possession of a $40 million contract. The athlete’s career was cut short after he murdered a friend of his and eventually hanged himself in his prison cell. He was just 27 years old.
Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and expert in the degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), took a posthumous MRI of Hernandez’s brain to find a startling discovery: he had stage 3 CTE, the worst being stage 4. In a recent lecture at a medical conference, McKee noted that Hernandez had the worst case of CTE she had ever seen in a person younger than 46.
CTE is found in people who have had multiple brain injuries. Symptoms include attention deficit disorder, memory loss, social instability, impulsive behavior, poor judgment, depression, violence, aggression, and suicidal tendencies. Researchers believe CTE can occur after just two years of participation in contact sports.
McKee and her team at Boston University hesitated to state whether CTE is what caused Hernandez to behave in a criminal manner and ultimately take his own life, but the correlation seems pretty clear to me.
Would a person with a healthy brain murder his own friend?
Would a star athlete, with so much to live for, throw away his future in a fit of rage?
I don’t think so.
Ok, raise your hand if you’re scared to put your kid in football now.
Yeah, me too.
As neuroscientists peer deeper into the connection between sports-related brain injuries and permanent brain damage, the American dream of turning our kids into football stars seems less and less appealing.
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking into tennis. Because I’m pretty sure John McEnroe was just a dick for all the normal reasons–not because he suffered multiple concussions.