KHQ Today

KHQ Today

CTE in Former Athletes

These+two+brains+were+studied+by+the+Boston+University+Center+for+the+Study+of+Traumatic+Encephalopathy.+On+the+left+is+a+cross-section+of+healthy+brain+tissue.+On+the+right+is+a+cross+section+of+brain+tissue+from+someone+who+suffered+from+severe+CTE.%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons
These two brains were studied by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. On the left is a cross-section of healthy brain tissue. On the right is a cross section of brain tissue from someone who suffered from severe CTE.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

These two brains were studied by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. On the left is a cross-section of healthy brain tissue. On the right is a cross section of brain tissue from someone who suffered from severe CTE. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

These two brains were studied by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. On the left is a cross-section of healthy brain tissue. On the right is a cross section of brain tissue from someone who suffered from severe CTE. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jack Stobbe, Sports Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






  Former Quarterback Jim McMahon said he was diagnosed with early onset dementia in his 50’s and was on the brink of taking his own life. He opened up about what it was like living with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in an interview with Harry Minium.

  “I was living like a vegetable. I’d walk from the bedroom to the kitchen and tell my girlfriend I was going to the store. She’d come down there half an hour later and I’d still be standing there,” McMahon said.

  “She’d ask, ‘Have you been to the store yet?’ I’d think, ‘Aw, that’s why I have my car keys.’ Sometimes, I couldn’t find my way home. I’d know I was close, but couldn’t quite figure out how to get home. I felt lost,” McMahon said.

  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is defined by the Boston University Research Center as  a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

  The symptoms of CTE are numerous and can be very severe. They can include impulsive behavior (becoming more angry or irritable), memory loss, difficulty processing things, motor impairment, speech and language difficulties and even suicidal thoughts.

  Athletes in particular have been affected by this traumatic disease due to the physical nature of professional sports. Due to an increase in research into CTE, there is a growing concern in professional athletes that their long-term health could be in serious danger should they continue their playing careers.

  A study was conducted this year by researcher Dr. Anne McKee from Boston University involving CTE. Brains of 202 deceased football players were examined during an autopsy, and it was revealed that 177 of the brains showed signs of CTE, as well as 110 out of 111 of former National Football League (NFL) players.

  Being one of the most violent sports still played, it makes sense that a majority (99% of the players tested according to McKee’s study) of former football players show signs of brain trauma. This problem needs to be rectified immediately because the health effects of CTE are destroying the lives of former players post-playing career.

  Former NFL players like Junior Seau and Dave Duerson have taken their own lives because of the repercussions of repeated brain trauma. Their family members reported a change in behavior, with the former athletes being easily irritated, more angry and sometimes violent and experiencing memory loss.

  In an interview with ESPN, Junior Seau’s oldest son, Tyler, said that Seau would, “Sometimes lose his temper. He would get irritable over very small things. And he would take it out on not just myself but also other people that he was close to. And I didn’t understand why.”

  CTE is also not just found in older players, either. When the autopsy on 27-year-old Aaron Hernandez was conducted after he committed suicide in his prison cell in 2017, the traumatic damage to his brain was, “akin to that of players well into their 60s,” according to a study conducted by Boston University.

  Hernandez’s case was the most severe case of CTE in someone of his age, and it is an alarming discovery for a player who participated in less than 50 career NFL games.

  It’s not just former football players that suffer from CTE, either. Former National Hockey League (NHL) player Derek Boogard was found to have CTE after his death in 2011 at the age of 28 from an accidental overdose of oxycodone and alcohol.

  The preeminent fighter in the NHL during his playing career, Boogard’s brain experienced more trauma than the normal player because of his role as a “tough guy”. Other enforcers like Bob Probert and Rick Rypien also were revealed to have the degenerative brain disease, and whose tragic deaths were related to side effects of CTE.

  Numerous boxers, including some of the greatest of all time like Joe Louis, have suffered extensive brain damage. Researchers even believe that the Parkinson’s Disease Muhammad Ali died from was caused by head trauma.

  The purpose of this piece isn’t to scare anyone away from playing a contact sport, or any sport for that matter. Sports can be an excellent outlet for people to learn leadership qualities, develop a strong work ethic and learn how to be a part of a team.

  For some, they can be a way out of a rough situation or a way to get an education that they otherwise couldn’t receive. For the select few who are good enough to play professionally, it is a way to make a career out of playing the game you love.

  Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter has said that he wouldn’t change a thing about his playing career despite the risk that head trauma could destroy his way of life. He’s not alone either: many former football players have said they would go back and play again if they were given the opportunity because their sport is such a big part of who they are.

  “Football gave me a purpose in life. Most of the good things in my life, they came about because of football. I didn’t have a father growing up, football taught me to be the man I am today,” Carter said on his Fox Sports television show First Things First.

  But something has to be done for the athlete’s sake, because their lives are being ruined because of the beating they put their bodies through.

  First of all, athletes need to be aware and need to be informed of the potential dangers of playing their sport. This needs to start at the youth level and continue all the way up to professional leagues.

  For some of the more violent sports like football or hockey, waiting until a later age to begin allowing contact could help reduce head injuries. This might upset they players or “traditionalists” of the sport, but anything that helps protect the players, especially at a younger age, should be done.

  As we learn more about CTE, improvements to equipment could also aid in keeping the players safe.

  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and other forms of brain trauma is destroying the lives of athletes, and something must be done about for the sake of their health.

MCT
Bob Probert, left, gets into a fight with Stu Grimson on November 19, 1991. Probert died Monday, July 5, 2010, at age 45.
Photo courtesy of the Tribune News Service

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Feature

    Touchy Subjects

  • Opinion

    A To Z Conspiracy: Area 51

  • CTE in Former Athletes

    Sports

    Catchin’ up with Kody

  • Showcase

    Drug Abuse In Sports

  • CTE in Former Athletes

    Feature

    Les Miserables: Behind the Scenes

  • Showcase

    Powderpuff Night Lights

  • CTE in Former Athletes

    Sports

    Bros vs.Joes (Girls Edition)

  • CTE in Former Athletes

    Feature

    Best Friends Quarterly

  • CTE in Former Athletes

    Feature

    New Year’s Resolutions

  • CTE in Former Athletes

    Sports

    Boys Basketball Preview

CTE in Former Athletes