More CTE information helps athletes and fans




CTE needs more discussion

CTE created several discussions over recent years.  However, most of them were quite brief – and the problem persists.  Why?  Because people don’t talk about it in detail.  Instead, they actively choose to “tuck it under the rug” and blame other issues.

I wrote a blog about my views regarding ethics and journalism.  But, the problem still persists.  Hence, CTE needs more discussion.

Aaron Hernandez’s symptoms were a sign

Image of Aaron Hernandez who was diagnosed with CTE
Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez had severe Stage 3 CTE | Image used from Google Images Licensed for Reuse

Aaron Hernandez was a football giant.  He played for the Florida Gators, and the NFL’s New England Patriots drafted him.  Unfortunately, despite his accolades, his off-the-field issues became noticeable.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, they began in college.  Yet, they increased after the draft.  In fact, Tim Tebow (a college teammate) and Tom Brady (an NFL teammate) both worried about Hernandez.  After all, the media often discussed his antics.

From football star to murder

However, everything came to a head in 2012.  Attorneys filed charges for the double-murder of two men after reports of fired shots into their vehicle.  According to USA Todayhe was acquitted.

However, 2013 proved more troublesome.  He and a friend were in an altercation at a club in Miami, FL.  During the car ride afterward,  his friend alleged that Hernandez shot him and, as a result, lost an eye.  As you may expect, their friendship was never the same.

But, the problems only escalated.  Police arrested Hernandez for the murder of Odin Lloyd and denied bail.

Aaron commits suicide

Hernandez was also denied parole on Odin Lloyd’s murder and the judge gave him a life sentence.  In April 2017, Hernandez committed suicide by hanging himself in his prison cell.

Hernandez had severe CTE

After months of arguing with a medical examiner’s office, Hernandez’s brain was examined at the Boston University CTE Center, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Not only did he have CTE, it was at “Stage 3”, and the degree was comparable to that of a 67-year-old man, according to Attorney John Baez.

 However, one person considers this new discovery as a direct link to Hernandez’s problems.  Dr. Bennet Omalu, whom you might remember was played by Will Smith in the movie “Concussion” thinks CTE drove Hernandez to “suicide and other criminal violent behavior”, according to Bleacher Report.

Dr. Omalu’s Thoughts

“I am yet to examine the brain of [a] professional football player who does not have CTE or other forms of brain damage,” he said. “And we have always known for centuries that if you suffer forceful and/or repetitive blows to your head in whatever human activity, you will suffer brain damage.”  Omalu also told TMZ Sports, “It should not be surprising that Aaron Hernandez eventually committed suicide.”

Omalu’s warning to young athletes

Image of Dr. Bennet Omalu who researched CTE
Dr. Bennet Omalu researched CTE and published his findings | Image used from Google Images Licensed for Reuse

Dr. Omalu, who studied CTE for several years, thinks that young athletes should heed his warning.  “If a child plays football, there is a 100 percent risk exposure to brain damage,” he said. He thinks no child under the age of 18 in today’s America should play any high-impact, high-contact sport.  To him, they include football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, rugby, boxing and wrestling.

“Let us keep our children healthy and make them play only non-contact sports,” he said.  While one may argue about when to play “the big six”, there is evidence that these sports have an effect on the brain that can lead to detrimental activity outside of their sport.

CTE affected several athletes

Of course, no one should ignore Hernandez’s victims.  However, other athletes were affected by the disease…Junior Seau and Ken Stabler are examples discussed by the LA Times and ESPN.  But, several others (according to CNN) suffered from the disease – probably unknowingly.

Cris Carter wonders about himself too

Even Sports Analyst and former NFL Player Cris Carter can relate.  On his show, FS1’s “First Things First,” he said he’s “conflicted.”  He is aware of the dangers of CTE.  He also said he knew Aaron Hernandez and several others who had the disease.  However, despite the dangers, Carter still encourages players to play.  “The game is safer now than it’s ever been,” Carter said.  “Are there some drawbacks to the game that are not pretty? Yes!”  However, he thinks that, if you have athletic ability, you should play.  He even discussed his own life. “But, I’m willing to suffer the consequences because [of] what it’s done for me.”  You can watch Carter discuss his views about CTE and related issues in the video below.

“The game is safer now than it’s ever been,” Carter said.  “Are there some drawbacks to the game that are not pretty? Yes!”  However, he thinks that, if you have athletic ability, you should play.  He even discussed his own life. “But, I’m willing to suffer the consequences because [of] what it’s done for me.”  You can watch Carter discuss his views about CTE and related issues in the video below.

“But, I’m willing to suffer the consequences because [of] what it’s done for me,” He said.  You can watch Carter discuss his views about CTE and related issues in the video below.

Cris Carter discusses his views on CTE and related issues with Nick Wright and Jenna Wolfe

Others are focusing on other things

While Carter acknowledges the whole picture, others concentrate on the murder aspect.  I will say this.  The murders should never be downplayed.  However, as Dr. Omalu points out, CTE possibly drove Hernandez to violent behavior.

Stephen A. Smith shared his opinion

Yet broadcasters like Stephen A. Smith don’t look at it that way.  On his ESPN show, “First Take”, he focused on Hernandez’s murder trial.

“Under no circumstances am I diminishing the impact of CTE – how legitimate of an issue that is – how there is somewhat of a dereliction of duty on the part of the NFL from a moral perspective to address this issue,” Smith said.  However, he then went on to say, “You don’t get to be a lawyer for Aaron Hernandez’s family.”  You can watch the discussion – and his opinion about Hernandez’s lawyer suing the NFL and New England Patriots below.

Stephen A. Smith discussed his views on Aaron Hernandez along with Max Kellerman, Tedy Bruschi and moderator Molly Qerim on “First Take”

Skip and Shannon think the issue is “Undisputed”

Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe talked about the issue on FS1’s “Undisputed”, as well.  Sharpe stepped backed and separated the two issues.  He understands Aaron Hernandez suffered from CTE.  But, he questioned whether or not his off-the-field behavior stemmed from alcohol and losing his father at a young age.  Sharpe also said current players should “no longer say ‘I don’t know the risk.'”  He expanded on his thoughts.

“Are you willing to assume those risks for financial reward?”, Sharpe asked.  “If you are – please – 20 years from now – don’t complain.  If you’re not, step away (from the NFL)…There are several guys that said, ‘You know what? Knowing what we know, I’m done with it.’  But, if you’re willing to assume the risk for [a] financial reward…you can’t claim ignorance because you know that there are risks.”

Bayless acknowledged that Hernandez exhibited “criminal tendencies…from a very early age”, and agreed that his behavior affected his draft status.  He also discussed how he previously talked with several former players and coaches and didn’t hear about CTE.

“Not one time have I heard from one of these players – well over 100 – that they have any symptoms of CTE. Small sample size?  You got it.”  He later discussed an article from Neuropathologist Peter Cummings who studied data.  According to the article, Cummings doubts the link between concussions and CTE.  You can watch the video below.

New players understand the risk – and are leaving early

Although many NFL players didn’t want to discuss CTE’s dangers for several years, current players now listen – and several retired early.  A.J. Tarpley left the Buffalo Bills after one season, and Chris Borland called it quits after one year with the San Francisco 49ers.  He also said that retiring early “could become a trend” – and he may be right.

Why aren’t we hearing more?

Although early retirement news surprised many fans, rare and brief discussions shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Think about it.  Like it or not, the NFL changed.  Everyone is listening to the news – and the big sports networks and programs don’t like it.  Why would they?  After all,  reporters need to discuss the games differently because of CTE.

However…

Changes are coming

Many things changed in recent years.  Confederate statues came down, the LGBT community is a bigger part of our culture, and employees want a living wage.  So, it makes sense that discussing new issues bled into America’s most popular sport.

Sure, people want excitement.  I will confess that I like it too.  However, allow me to address all the parents reading this story.  Sure, new rules will change the game.  But, a great play is still a great play.  So, let me ask you this.  Does excitement need to preclude safety?  I’m sure many parents want safer activities.  So, it behooves us to gather more information, which requires the media to talk about it more often, and in more detail.

(Image sourced from the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy – Image found on Google Images Licensed for Reuse)



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