Doctors in Pennsylvania are concerned that repeated blows to the head might have contributed to the suicide of a college football player earlier this year. Autopsies performed on the college student after his death revealed troubling signs of “incipient chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” abbreviated CTE.
Recent autopsies of former NFL football players have uncovered the same thing, though at a much more advanced stage. Caused by repeated brain trauma, CTE has been linked to mood disorders such as depression.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this most recent case, though, is the fact that the player in question never suffered a concussion during his playing career. Rather, doctors believe that the CTE was a result of repeated impact at the line of scrimmage.
How many hits are too many? It’s hard to say. Concussions would be a more obvious indicator of repeated head trauma, but the general wear and tear of football is difficult to gauge without any standalone incidents.
This is scary news for the parents of football players and should be frightening news for the players and coaches themselves.
The NFL has come under fire recently from former players and others familiar with the business for failing to protect players against head injuries. These individuals have accused the league of prioritizing profit over safety. League officials have denied this and have, in their defense, begun to take a more proactive approach to preventing head and brain injury.
Still, this is a relatively new chapter in the study of traumatic brain injuries and head trauma. As such, it is not exactly clear just what that preventative approach should be.