Thursday, 27 July 2017

Brains, Rugby and Diamonds

Some of you, if you're not former NFL players, may recall a post I wrote in February 2016 about the NFL and my thoughts on the debilitating brain injuries that it was becoming apparent were related to the sport.
It's also become clear in recent years just how much damage the game is doing to players physically. It's brutal, with Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) a major issue that could yet see the game's popularity decline significantly (to be replaced by rugby perhaps?) and with thousands of other players suffering life-changing physical injuries. The NFL reportedly reached a settlement in 2013 with around 4,500 former players (or their estates) with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
This week, the results of a study were published.
Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, has examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. A broad survey of her findings was published on Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Of the 202 players, 111 of them played in the N.F.L. — and 110 of those were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.
The New York Times has an in depth article on the study here, while a recent article in the New York Daily News for those with shorter attention spans is included below - I'm not quite sure if the headline writer was trying to be funny with his use of "stunningly": 
Football on the brink: Stunningly scary news about the NFL and CTE
The evidence is now overwhelming: Football, the most powerful, popular and profitable sport in America, is hazardous to the health of those who play it.
A neuropathologist examined the brains of 111 deceased National Football League players. All but one turned out to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the neurological disease that causes depression, memory loss and dementia.
This was, it’s important to note, not a random sample. The brains were donated to science because players’ families suspected something was wrong.
But so high were the numbers, incidence of CTE would remain well above the norm even if every other dead one-time NFL player turned out to have a perfectly healthy brain.
We can’t unlearn this, not even with pre-season enthusiasm bubbling. A lifetime of playing football correlates strongly with lasting harm to the human brain. Barring major changes to the game, it’ll be hard to ever cheer the same way again.
The door might be opening for Rugby. I'll be in the US in September for the Newcastle Falcons v Saracens Premiership fixture, a much appreciated and belated Fathers Day gift from my kids, one of whom very conveniently lives in Philadelphia, where the game is to be played. I'll be the one in a Bath shirt. 

A previous visit to that fine city coincided with the Autumn Internationals last year, and admittedly an Irish Pub (Tir na Nog, known to at least one reader) isn't a random bar to perform a formal study, but there was a lot of interest in the back-to-back games that day. Several people I spoke to, I'm a friendly chap, had made the trip to Chicago a couple of weeks earlier, to watch Ireland defeat the All Blacks.

As the concluding paragraph in the Daily News article says, we can't unlearn the knowledge that hits and concussions in American Football are not amusing, and can no longer be casually dismissed with jokes along the lines of "he had his bell rung there". The consequences of these events are serious. 

Most sports inherently have some level of risk, but a sport where injuries are expected, and players are almost expected to cause injury to other players, is a brutal sport which needs to evolve or fade away.

The New York Times mentions that:
The N.F.L.’s top health and safety official has acknowledged a link between football and C.T.E., and the league has begun to steer children away from playing the sport in its regular form, encouraging safer tackling methods and promoting flag football.
If you've not yet seen the 2015 award winning film Concussion, which covers this subject matter, I recommend it.

In other NFL news, the hunt for a $150k diamond earring lost in a Georgia lake goes on...
As if losing the Lombardi Trophy by coughing up a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl wasn't enough, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones lost a $150,000 earring on a jet ski this week.
Jones emerged from a ride on the motor-propelled personal watercraft on Lake Lanier in Georgia and noticed one of his massive diamond-stud earrings dislodged when he crashed into the water. Jones otherwise was unharmed during the joy ride.

"It was worth a little bit," Jones said of the earring in a television interview.
Jones' jeweler told WXIA-TV in Atlanta the gem was worth about $150,000. The 28-year-old All-Pro has earned $51.71 million since entering the NFL as the sixth overall pick in 2011. His 2017 base salary is $11.5 million. That's about $179,687.50 for every quarter of football over 16 regular-season games.

No comments: