T.J. Ward #43  of the Denver Broncos tackles on T.Y Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos tackles on T.Y Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

We’re learning more about the risks that come with playing football. A new study of 111 brains of former NFL players revealed that 110 of them had a degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

A year ago, the league revised its protocol on concussions — an issue that plagues players at every level of the game. But with more connections being made between football and brain injuries, is it time to have a serious conversation about re-inventing a beloved sport that many Americans don’t want to change?

Guests

  • Gregg Easterbrook Contributing editor, The Atlantic; author, "The Game's Not Over"; columnist, The Weekly Standard. @EasterbrookG
  • Patrick Hruby Former contributing editor, VICE Sports. @patrick_hruby
  • Cyndy Feasel Author, After the Cheering Stops: An NFL Wife’s Story of Concussions, Loss, and the Faith that Saw Her Through. @CyndyFeasel
  • Dr. Bennet Omalu Physician and forensic pathologist; author of Truth Doesn’t Have A Side. @bennetomalu9168

Former NFL Player Warren Sapp On Why He Decided To Donate His Brain To Science

Interview Highlights

Cyndy Feasel on learning her late husband’s brain tested positive for CTE
I felt like our whole life had been misunderstood. I had no idea that CTE was a sport-related, degenerative brain disease. I thought that Grant was just an addict. Grant had used alcohol, and he had used pills to overcome his pain, and had been to rehab many times. Could never get sober. And there was always a disconnect between he and I, that I had no idea that it was the brain trauma and the brain damage that caused all those disconnects.

 

How Feasel feels about football now
I can’t recommend football, of course, because it killed my loved one … The study didn’t even talk about all the children that have had brain damage and died because of football. So I couldn’t recommend football. It’s hard for me to watch, when I think about the fact that it was preventable. I’m begging parents every day. I beg parents to look at the evidence, educate yourselves about what you’re putting your children into. Look at the studies, look at the science. You can’t argue with scientific evidence. It damages the brain. I’m begging parents to look before they sign their child up to play in football this season and every season, please. You wouldn’t treat your cell phone, your smart phone, the way your child’s brain is going to be treated in football this year.

 

Gregg Easterbrook on how the NFL and fans treats CTE now
The issue has come out of the closet in the sense that it was once considered unmanly for a player to say, “My brain hurts, I can’t see properly, I don’t want to go back in the game.” And now that’s considered a sensible thing for a player to say… Remember, it was only ten years ago that ESPN had a show called “Jacked Up,” it was all about celebrating highlights of people getting hit in the head and dropping unconscious. It was supposed to be a good thing. Now, at least no network celebrates that. People are aware that dropping to the ground unconscious is not proof that you’re macho, it’s not a good thing.

(The NFL’s statement on the latest study)

A statement from Dr. Joe Eisenmann, Director of High Performance and Education for USA Football:


“USA Football in conjunction with its Medical Advisory Committee continues to support the research into the potential relationship between contact sports and neurological changes later in life. As the authors of this article note, there are limitations to this study, including that estimates to the prevalence of CTE cannot be concluded or implied. Along with addressing those limitations, prospective longitudinal studies are important next steps to help all of us understand the relationship between the brain and contact sports more clearly.”

 

Patrick Hruby on regulating who plays football
I mean, Americans vote with their dollars for cigarettes and for beer. And we don’t allow people under the age of 18 to go into a store and buy those things … I don’t think there’s a lot of people advocating that Congress step in and regulate the NFL to the level of setting on-field rules for the sport of football at the professional level … The largest population of players are youth players. And we do, in society, treat children much differently than we treat adults, in terms of what risks are acceptable for them. I think we’re just starting to grapple with this, but as time goes on, we’re going to have to grapple with it more and more.
Dr. Bennet Omalu on parents’ duty to protect their children
When we as adults conceive a child, it is a gift from God … and we have to do all we have within our means to protect that life. Can somebody tell me, what is so protective about putting on a helmet on the head of a child and asking him to go hit his head on the heads of other children, on the bodies of other children? Well, we know that the human brain has no reasonable capacity to heal itself … When you play these games, these games rob you of your essence, what makes you a human being. It takes your mind away from you. Your intelligence.

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