CTE, The Effect on NFL Players and the Future of the NFL

CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) discovered by Dr. Bennet Omalu, is a disease that occurs from repeated blows to the head and concussions – most often found in NFL players. Concussions have received a lot of attention recently due to the movie Concussion starring Will Smith. Moreover, a month ago the New York Times came out with an article alleging that the NFL omitted over 100 concussions in a study done from 1996 to 2001, in order to lower the rates of concussions among its players. The NFL has demanded that the New York Times retract their story, and this instance is not the only time that the NFL has denied accusations about concussions in the NFL. Dr. Omalu had an extremely tough time making the NFL accept that CTE is connected with football. Yet again, this multi-billion dollar corporation resorts to bullying its accusers. CTE has many dangerous effects, but because of Dr. Omalu players are now aware of symptoms and can tend to this disease.

The Four Stages of CTE include these symptoms:

1) Victims experience some headaches and loss of attention

2) Short-term memory loss, mood swings, and more frequent stage 1 symptoms

3) Extensive memory loss and apathy

4) Amnesia, depression, and dementia as well as suicidal thoughts

Over the years, CTE has taken many lives of former NFL players including Mike Webster, who is arguably the best center every to play football, as well as Dave Duerson, Andre Waters, and Junior Seau. However, not only NFL players are affected by CTE, even high schoolers, and collegiate athletes can show symptoms. With all of this information available, players are starting to consider the consequences of playing the game. Early retirements are becoming a norm because of CTE with more and more players backing away from the game, which is the NFL’s biggest nightmare. Chris Borland, a former 49er, at the age of 24 walked away from a bright future as an NFL star. Before leaving football forever, he said the opposite of what the NFL wanted to hear, “I just honestly want to do what is best for my health. From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk. I’m concerned that if you wait [until] you have symptoms, it’s too late.” Later Borland sucker punched the NFL by saying that he, “couldn’t play football safely,” and that, “football can’t be saved.” Even with rule changes, technology improvements, and retaught tackling techniques, I agree with Chris Borland that the NFL will be defeated by CTE. More notable players retiring early due to health concerns, not all specifically citing CTE, include Patrick Willis, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jake Locker, and A.J. Tarpley. Patrick Willis took his own shot at the NFL by saying, “Honestly, I pay attention to these guys when they are finished playing, walking around like they’ve got no hips and they can’t play with their kids. They can barely walk.” This fear is why players are rethinking the risks of competing in the NFL.

The NFL is in the hot seat with CTE looming over their heads, which is being exacerbated by the recent spike in early retirements. I hate to say it, but the NFL is on the brink of a long-term decline. This decline will not necessarily start in the near future, and there will be little to almost no signs of the fall in the upcoming decade because most kids who have already started playing tackle football, will not stop. But, parents with very young children will rethink the consequences of their children playing football, which will result in less potential NFL prospects. It is these future players that are the lifeblood of the league.

CTE is sucking money out of the NFL because of all the research they are doing to protect their players. However, technology improvements will only delay the inevitable downfall as Chris Borland said. With the NFL reaching new highs in advertising revenues and the Super Bowl growing in popularity, it is awful to think that CTE will slowly ruin the NFL. It is an extremely risky prediction, but I believe that the NFL is on the brink of a surprising decline, with players leaving the game early. In the soon future, the NFL will not resemble the corporation it is today.

Watch my commentary on this article here: CTE, The Effect on Players and on the Future of the NFL

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