Bioethics @ TIU

The NFL & CTEs, again

Posted August 7th, 2017 by Neil Skjoldal

Channel surfing last week, I was shocked to see that there was an NFL preseason game on TV already. With the arrival of the NFL season comes a report from The New York Times on a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. 

The convenience study included the brains of 111 former NFL players, 110 of which were found to have evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Acknowledging the limitations of a convenience study, the authors conclude, “… CTE may be related to prior participation in football.” Putting it more bluntly, the Times quotes Dr. Ann McKee, who has studied the brains of 202 football players: “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football—there is a problem.”

Thankfully, the NFL has come a long way since the publication of League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru in 2013. After years of denial, it now acknowledges a link and according to the Times “… has begun to steer children away from playing the sport in its regular form…” Indeed, there is much more emphasis on concussion protocol than ever before. But will it be enough?

Those who for one reason or another deny the linkage between playing football and CTE complain that the study is not a representative sample.   Fair enough. But still, the Times notes: “About 1,300 former players have died since the B.U. group began examining brains. So even if every one of the other 1,200 players had tested negative — which even the heartiest skeptics would agree could not possibly be the case — the minimum C.T.E. prevalence would be close to 9 percent, vastly higher than in the general population.”

Put more simply, evidence is mounting that shows that repetitively banging your head in a contact sport is dangerous to your health.

 

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