NFL: National Football League OR Not For Long…

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Is this the 2-minute warning for the NFL?

By Dante Vitoria August 1, 2017 

Summer is winding down and that means a few things; back to school and back to school shopping, that one last end of summer fishing trip, the Labor Day BBQ at Aunt Lina and Uncle Angelo’s house (yes, I had an Aunt Lina and Uncle Angelo, Zia and Zio actually, but I digress), and of course…Football season! And therein lies the issue. Is this year’s NFL Kickoff a good thing or should it be the last?

Last week a study done at Boston University revealed some startling information and a strong case as to why Football (as we know it) should be laid to rest, before more former players are. The study examined Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in 111 former NFL Players. Sadly, 110 had levels of this affliction. Research showed those suffering from CTE suffered from mood swings that would greatly effect behavior, memory loss, anxiety, decrease in motor skills and impediment of speech. The most common cause of death (27%) of those with stages 1-2 of CTE was suicide.

One notable former player who committed suicide, Hall of Fame Linebacker, Junior Seau. The study revealed Seau had “at least” Stage 2 CTE! Seau played in 268 NFL games, and should now be enjoying the lifestyle of a retired sports superstar, and not be a horrible statistic. CTE studies are not some new “fad” either. There are some studies almost a century old. Most of the studies were geared toward Boxers. But former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster’s death in 2002 triggered Dr. Bennet Omalu to start studying NFL Players. Webster, also a NFL Hall of Fame member who won 4 Super Bowl Championships was a key figure in the advancement of CTE studies and helped shed light on the issue.

Other notable NFL Superstars who also exhibited a significant level of CTE were Frank Gifford, John Mackey and Ken Stabler. According to Dr. Chris Muller, Football is the most violent and dangerous sport, surpassing Boxing and MMA. Another reason why our “LOVE” of football should get a closer look.

There is another vantage point on the effects of Football that many are very reluctant to discuss, but the facts are there, and the ratios are staggering. There are an inordinate number of handicapped children born to current and former NFL players. Children suffering from Autism, Heart Disease, Cancer (including Brain Tumors), Cystic Fibrosis, Spina Bifida and Krabbe’s Disease to name some specific afflictions. One theory is that the player takes such a physical beating during his career, that his chromosomes actually become “misshapen” causing the birth defects in their children.

There are even more theories, but none validated by studies, as are the CTE studies.
Dr. Ann McKee, Chief of Neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System took the study a step further, and found Football players who never played in the NFL also suffered from CTE, and one 23-year-old young man suffered from CTE, and his highest level of football was High School. This is the KEY rebuttal from those in favor of status quo and leaving football alone. The same “type” of argument was used by the Tabacco companies and lobbyists saying there is no “REAL PROOF”. Well, not so fast…

The CTE study found that Lineman were most prone to suffer the effects of CTE. The nature of the position is they receive blows to the head on almost every play. Forty-four of the 110 of those studied were Lineman. Additionally, the longer the career, the greater degree of brain damage. This was UNIVERSAL in the study. Pretty compelling argument.

There MAY be a solution however, or at least a method to “slow down” the spread of CTE in the NFL and football in general. A group of Doctors, led by Julian Bailes, the former Doctor of the Pittsburgh Steelers and subject of the movie, “Concussion”, and co-inventor of a technology as well as co-director of the North Shore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Illinois has developed a “collar” for players in all contact sports to wear. The collar, according to Bailes, “…can slightly increase the amount of blood in the brain and thereby cushion it in a way no helmet can.”  This would increase the size of the brain and lessen the movement of the brain and prevent the brain from slamming into the skull, which causes the bruising on the brains surface, causes concussions and causes CTE. This is called “sloshing”. By preventing “sloshing” Dr. Bailes and his colleagues feel this will significantly decrease contusions and CTE.

The inventors of this device, now being tested in athletes, say it could reduce the risk of brain injury. This protective collar puts gentle pressure on the jugular veins to increase the volume of blood in the brain. That could help protect it from traumatic injury.

The research studied Big Horn Sheep and Woodpeckers. Both species have repetitive, high impact blows to the head and can reduce the impact by adjusting pressure and volume inside the brain. The company (Dr. Bailes et al), developing the collar is named Q30. The Doctors are supplying the research, but have not committed any financial resources to the manufacturing of the collar.

Perhaps the NFL and the NFLPA (Players Association) should manufacture the collar, or their insurance companies should. Then again, why? The NFL generated over $13 Billion last year and they project an increase this coming year as well. So, as the old adage says…If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Or maybe the NFL should cease to exist…like many of their former Superstars do.

Dante Vitoria is the Founder and CEO of The Vitoria Group in New York City.

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