The NFL has been on the right track helping solve the concussion crisis when they began donating $30 million in September of 2012 to support research on medical conditions prominent to athletes for the National Institutes of Health. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners then provided $100 million in support of engineering advancements and medical research, in addition to a $100 million previously pledged by the league towards medical and neuroscience research. Even though their efforts were notable, their actions behind the scenes regarding CTE research damaged its credibility as a league to educate it’s players about the research and safety.
But we will come back to that.
The real problem is how head injuries is affecting the future of football. A study published in July in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that CTE was found in 110 of 111 NFL players that participated in the study. Jama, who is currently doing research on brain trauma in football players, found that CTE can only be found in deceased athletes. Considering this new study is only linked to football players, additional research of 202 deceased former football players at all levels showed that 88 percent of all the brains had CTE. From high school to professional athletes, CTE has been affecting the lives of many players long term. And the condition has resulted in numerous deaths.
There is yet to be any cure for this disease. It is linked to many symptoms such as loss of consciousness, depression, memory loss, behavioral change and confusion. These symptoms may seem easy to cure or maintain with simple therapy, but the ongoing process to prevent athletes from psychological damage to commit suicide is a tougher task. Several causes and effects of CTE have no current solution without the necessary research to gather results, but it is a issue that is on the brink of newer discoveries.
From numerous research, an important question to ask ourselves is what position does this put the NFL in?
Dr. Ann McKee, who works at the VA Boston Healthcare System as well as director of the CTE center at the Boston University school of medicine, has worked alongside the NFL in gaining research from the money the league has invested. However, Dr. McKee and her researchers have been skeptical of the NFL’s attempts to donate money for more research because of the NFL’s selective decision to approve certain research.
Dr. McKee spoke about the skepticism of the NFL’s willingness to fund certain research.
“I will be extremely surprised if any of the 100 or 200 million comes way,” she said in response to the league’s statements about CTE. “The NFL directs funding only to research they approve of.”
The NFL has funded Dr. McKee’s research in the past, but no longer was willing to be a partner. In the aftermath of parting ways, the NFL was accused of covering up and denying the link between football-related head injury and brain disease.
As part of these accusations, the league suffered a massive concussion lawsuit settlement with thousands of former NFL players that was reached in 2013. After numerous court bickering between both parties, there was a deal reached between the NFL and ex-players where the NFL was to pay $765 million to fund medical exams related to concussions. This on-going clash between the NFL, scientists and ex-players have made many question the true motive of the NFL from a professional perspective to protect its athletes. There is no telling how many more brains will develop CTE as players continue to play through their careers and with the NFL not on board with the amount of funding or research it will take to understand this new disease, it will continue to hurt the lives of football players as well as damage the image of the NFL, making football a questionable sport to play in terms of long term health.