|Posted by Sports With 3 on January 10, 2013 at 11:25 AM|
By: Seth Carson (@SethCarsonIMV)
Today, it has been confirmed to my speculation that All-Pro NFL great Junior Seau did in fact suffer from a brain disease, prior to committing suicide last May. Junior Seau is not alone on this growing list of players who have or are suffer from (CTE) chronic traumatic encephalopathy. These 10 players players that committed suicide along with Seau due to CTE or some form of brain trauma are Jeffery Alm (Oilers), Larry Bethea (Cowboys), Michael Currant (Broncos), Shane Dronett (Broncos), Dave Duerson (Bears), Ray Easterling (Falcons), Terry Long (Steelers), Kendrick McKinley (Broncos), OJ Murdock (Titans), Thornton Stonebreaker (Vikings), Andre Waters (Eagles), and Michael Wise (Raiders). The list unfortunately extends beyond the notable names listed above and gives a clear indication that the NFL needs new standards and guidelines to protect players from acquiring any brain trauma injuries.
The first place to start is by setting career guideline rules for concussions. A concussion is any injury to an organ, especially the brain, produced by a violent blow and followed by a temporary orprolonged loss of function(s). In the NFL, player concussions are very common due the hard hitting environment that exists during each game played. The problem arises when multiple (more than one) concussion takes place during a player’s career. A single concussion alone can cause any form(s) of brain trauma including, but not limited to chronic traumatic encephalopathy. A player who suffers more than one concussion, is far more at risk to develop a life-long disability as a result of said brain trauma.
The first guideline Goodell should set prior to next season is that any player who suffers three concussions be forced by the league to retire. Granted, this may not be a popular decision favored by the league or the fans, but popular opinion is not paramount in thisdiscussion, where preserving the safety of a human being’s life carries the highest importance et al.
The second guideline or rule would be the zero tolerance for head contact when a player tackles another player on any set of downs. Any offender the league deems makes intentional helmet to helmet contact would be suspended half the season and docked ¼th of their salary. In effect, this would force defenders to make proper tackles allowed under the rulebook,and help eliminate the harmful hits that defenseless players receive. James Harrision is a solid example of why this policy would work, he has committed the highest amount of illegal head shots/hits during the past two seasons, and had this policy been in effect, those unacceptable hits would not have taken place. Not to single Harrision out, because other players have done the same, including, but not limited to, Ndamukong Suh.
Traumatic brain injuries cause life-long debilitating injuries and disabilities that are not curable and often very hard to manage on a daily basis. The symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy include disorientation, confusion, vertigo, headaches, poor judgment, overt dementia, slowed muscular movements, staggered gait, impeded speech, tremors and deafness. Any or all of these symptoms can affect and literally destroy a person’s livelihood and provoke suicidal thoughts and/or intentions. Individuals suffering from CTE may also progress through four stages of the disease; the first stage is characterized by its disturbances and psychotic symptoms. In the second stage of the disease the patient may exhibit erratic behavior, memory loss, and the initial symptoms of Parkinson's disease, such as difficulty with balance and gait.  The final stage is dementia as well as symptoms related to Parkinson's disease.
The third policy or guideline would be for the owners and NFLPA to reconstruct the health provisions of the collective bargaining agreement to eliminate the “independent contractor’s” status for the players and consider them employees, thus enforcing that each team and its owners provide a solid health insurance for all active and former players in the league. The fact that most team doctors are only working in the best interest of the team and not the individual player has played a big part in the late detection of brain trauma from violent hits to the head. A professional physician would run tests immediately to confirm a diagnoses or suspicion thereof, and allow the player(s) to then choose his or their own destiny, rather than not be informed to the benefit of the team and the win-loss column.
We as fans love the game for its hard hitting action, and while none of these amendments will be popular among the league and fans, they aren’t the ones risking permanent brain damage. The day any of these people gets out on the field and suffers such trauma would give them a taste of the reality the 11 players above found impossible to live with, and a concussion is only the first stage. Any concussions there after, would introduce CTE and its incurable symptoms that are forever a life changing event that does not stop for those suffering from it. Unfortunately, some find death to be the best cure or resolve to treat these diseases. Life is precious and you only get one. In the same regards that a child would be protected by their parent(s), the league and its owners must protect the well being of their players. The quality ofthe game isn’t more important than preserving an individual’s quality of life. If you disagree, then put on a helmet, get on the field, suffer these dehabilitating (When personal, and social or economic aspects of everyday life becomes difficult or impossible to maintaindue to a physical affliction) injuries, and then let the world know how you feel. I’m certain the grand majority would find those results very interesting.