Simon Newcomb was a true genius. Astronomer, Mathematician, wrote sci-fi novels. When he died in 1909 President Theodore Roosevelt attended his funeral. To paraphrase, Newcomb said than no known combination of physical force, machinery or known substances can be united in a practical machine by which man can fly long distances through the air. Two months later the Wright brothers were losing luggage. Two years later they received $5,000 from the government because they were able to go faster than 45 MPH. Things, attitudes, science, known facts change.
'...he now found himself unable to remember conversations, dates and routine bits of daily life. He became irritable, snapped at his children and withdrew from his family. He and his wife began divorce proceedings. The officers found his body, he had hanged himself. In his profession there have been a number of similar, troubling incidents. Nobody speaks of them very often though.
His boss at his former job, never having met him in person (It's a large organization, can't meet everyone) said of his suicide and many others, "That is an epidemic, something is wrong" He never scored a TD, never carried the ball or caught a pass at the professional level. But he went into his job knowing that severe injury was a possibility. Eyes wide open, death was there..every day because he was a U.S. Marine. His boss was the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta.
He wasn't as accomplished as the Notre Dame graduate. Successful businessman, NFL veteran safety. No, the safety was wealthy, built a successful business. Both Democrats and Republicans wanted him to run for office. When he was in his mid 40s something changed...bankruptcy, increasing anger..depression and divorce.
For Dave Duerson things seemed to have changed though, until the time he took his life. He'd spoken to Leslie Frazier about coaching. He was engaged to be married...until he killed himself. Like former Eagles safety Andre Waters who shot himself , Duerson wanted his brain tested. People know somethings wrong, they just don't know exactly what it is.
When Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy studied his brain the results were conclusive. When you watch their press conference it's almost impossible to see the game in the same light.
CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is real. It is degenerative and the only way to diagnose it is post-mortem, after death. It's not just concussions either. You can have "sub-concussions" I used to laugh with a guy who played for the Chiefs after he described his concussion. "I thought that I was washing my car back in HS...and dreamed that I was playing in an NFL game" It's not so funny now and wasn't then. we just didn't know it.
There's no real way to test for CTE, no real treatment because we just don't understand enough about the human brain. The suit that NFL players have filed has real legs but...you have current and former players who admit to hiding their symptoms. Players want trial, league wants no trial so settlement seems to be the most logical outcome.
There are larger consequences than those of the NFL. We're fighting two wars in which the enemy uses weapons that increase the numbers of head injuries. Those people come home and live with their families, many of them unknowingly injured. We send our kids out and they play sports that are ostensibly non-contact, soccer, lacrosse and there are frequently undiagnosed concussions or sub-concussions. There aren't baseline brain tests being taken in most youth sports around the nation.
When I first heard that the league may ban kickoffs in the future I thought that "there's no way" Now....don't be surprised to see the ball on the twenty. No, it's not known if better helmets are an answer but all available evidence seems to indicate that it won't make much of a difference.
However people are destroying themselves, and the lives of others whom they know and love. I worry now that I let my boy play.