Print Story Is Junior Seau the End of the NFL?
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By wiredog (Thu May 03, 2012 at 09:18:02 AM EST) (all tags)
Another suicide. Shot himself in the chest. So his brain could be studied the way Dave Duerson's was? No note this time.


Here you have a guy who was a lock to be a first ballot hall of famer.

The NFL is having a real problem with head injuries. Turns out that hundreds to thousands of hits over several years can cause long-term, permanent, brain damage. Even hits that don't result in concussions can, over time, cause problems. 200+ lawsuits from former players, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. (I recall reading somewhere that heading, in Soccer (EUian football) has similar dangers.)

It's going to go down the food chain.

Sooner or later a former NCAA player is going to be diagnosed with long term damage resulting from hits he took in college. Someone will probably sue a high school. At some point the insurance companies will decide that covering college, and especially high school, football is just too risky. Assuming the schools themselves don't decide that. Somewhere some administrator is going to take a hard look at the science, and decide that it just isn't worth the risk.

And the parents are already saying "I'm not going to let my kid play that game."

The NFL recruits from the NCAA, which recruits from the high schools. If the high schools aren't playing, the sport eventually goes away, or gets marginalized.

The 94 Chargers went to the SuperBowl. 8 players from that team are now dead. 5, arguably, as a side-effect of their time in the NFL.

I know fans who are giving up on watching the NFL. Watching people destroy their minds for our amusement is losing its appeal.


When I was a kid Muhammed Ali was highly respected by all of us. Known not just for toughness, but for his gift with words. To see what boxing had done to him, by the end of his life... Well, there's a reason boxing isn't followed in the US the way it was 30 years ago.
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Is Junior Seau the End of the NFL? | 32 comments (32 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Overstated by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #1 Thu May 03, 2012 at 10:15:16 AM EST
You overstate the entire case far too much.  There is no evidence that Junior Seau's suicide was linked to any sort of head injury.  That's pure speculation. 

In the city where I live, there are a lot of old football players, from eras where the helmets and technology around them was a lot poorer.  Hell you can still go down to Fuzzy's Bar and talk to Fuzzy Thurston, even though he's nearly 80. He played 10 years in the NFL in the 50s and 60s.


The other factor you completely disregard is money.  There is a huge amount of money, even when it comes to high school football.  College? Big money. Even for the players considering the cost of education. Greed will keep the NFL in players.

As to the insurance issue, they will just offer waivers.  And people will sign them. 

In my mind, I don't think that the school systems should pay for ANY athletic teams with public money. Those teams, football, basketball, hockey, baseball and the rest should be supported via donation and ticket sales. But that's another discussion.


Disclaimer:  *I live in Green Bay.  You wouldn't have ever heard of Green Bay if it wasn't for the fact that we trapped an NFL team here in the 50s. That may bias my view a bit. Football is a hard-core tradition here.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
at the high school level by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #4 Thu May 03, 2012 at 11:32:16 AM EST
those waivers may be unenforceable in many states. (they're probably unenforceable in CA, for example).
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.
[ Parent ]
*shrug* by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu May 03, 2012 at 12:22:47 PM EST
So be it then.  I find high school athletics to be an unnecessary drain on school resources.

I think most parents sign some kind of waiver already for high school sports.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
[ Parent ]
I mostly agree by lm (4.00 / 1) #25 Fri May 04, 2012 at 08:26:08 AM EST
I don't think the problem is athletics per se. After all, I'm a ``healthy body, healthy mind'' kind of guy.

But the emphasis that most school systems put on some forms of athletics certainly seems extremely disproportionate to say the least.

And, yeah, both of my girls needed signed waivers to even try try out for any sports.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Yup by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #27 Fri May 04, 2012 at 09:28:47 AM EST
I'm not anti-exercise either.  Many schools around the world do morning calisthenics and we could benefit from that. Well, no matter. I'm not willing to get elected to the school board to make these changes so it's really all just a fart in the wind.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
[ Parent ]
better helmets may be part of the problem by georgeha (4.00 / 2) #5 Thu May 03, 2012 at 11:40:34 AM EST
If one thinks their helmet is good enough to prevent injury even while rushing headfirst into someone, they're going to rush head first.


[ Parent ]
Ah yes by Herring (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu May 03, 2012 at 11:54:43 AM EST
On QI (so it may or may not be bullshit) the argument was put forward that bare-knuckle boxing is actually safer because you aren't going to hit someone hard enough to cause brain damage if you have no gloves on. No stats though - obviously.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
There are stats on boxing... by Metatone (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu May 03, 2012 at 11:59:17 AM EST
and the medical studies I've seen show that it's not the force that boxing gloves change, it's the friction.

The friction turns the head more and it's these micro-neck injuries that give you the state M. Ali got to. 

[ Parent ]
Stats by Herring (2.00 / 0) #12 Thu May 03, 2012 at 02:06:06 PM EST
I would question how there are stats on bare-knuckle boxing though.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
It's not that hard to... by Metatone (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu May 03, 2012 at 02:36:34 PM EST
measure the force of a bare knuckle punch and decide that it isn't different enough from a glove for "impact force" to be the explanation... 

[ Parent ]
That wasn't the question by Herring (2.00 / 0) #15 Thu May 03, 2012 at 03:17:51 PM EST
The question is: which is safer - bare knuckle or conventional boxing? Can't reduce that to one measurement.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
Uh... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #17 Thu May 03, 2012 at 03:43:49 PM EST
there are plenty of pro bare knuckle boxing tournaments around the world. Thailand has a thriving scene.
Bare knuckle was and remains a traditional Russian sport and their medical establishment kept more extensive records than US and UK medical records of boxers before the 1980s.

[ Parent ]
not both? by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #22 Thu May 03, 2012 at 07:55:14 PM EST
Last I heard, KOs typically had to do with rotation of the brain in relation to the skull, no neck injury required (and it would be hard to believe that Mr. Ali's condition is due to his neck). An earlier theory stated that the mass of the gloves was key. 16oz superheavyweight gloves caused more damage than 14oz heavyweight gloves (also the extra padding was claimed to be on the sides or otherwise changed very little). Like lead knuckles, they increased the mass of the fist and the strength of the blow.

I suspect boxing took a heavy blow after that 60 minutes special showing just how every contender has a 20-1 record with many knockouts (most of the victims are professional punching bags. They won't throw the fight, but they haven't a prayer of winning).

Wumpus

[ Parent ]
More weight increases mass but reduces speed by lm (2.00 / 0) #23 Fri May 04, 2012 at 07:51:26 AM EST
I suspect that the real danger is from repeated blows. What padded boxing gloves allow over bare knuckles is a larger number of blows to the head in a given fight.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Boxing gloves by jayhawk88 (2.00 / 0) #30 Sat May 05, 2012 at 10:13:24 AM EST
...weren't implemented to protect heads, they were to protect hands. The gloves allowed fighters to hit harder without breaking bones in their hand.

[ Parent ]
agreed, re: speculation by the mariner (4.00 / 3) #11 Thu May 03, 2012 at 01:46:30 PM EST
it seems to me just as likely that this guy knew he didn't have a head injury and killed himself this way so that doctors will have an opportunity to study his undamaged brain, thus protecting the sport he loves from undeserved criticism.  

[ Parent ]
Heh by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu May 03, 2012 at 03:06:08 PM EST
Cute, but if he wanted to ensure brain autopsy, he would have had to indicate that in a note or in a will.  Otherwise his family can simply forbid it or have him cremated.  The entire idea that he wants his dead brain studied is complete speculation if he doesn't indicate it.

Mind you, I'd like them to study his brain. It may shed light on the extent of injury these guys take and that's a good thing.


I find the idea that NFL players are killing themselves to have their brains studied to make a point to be more than a little far fetched.  They can do more alive to advance the cause of football related brain injuries.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
[ Parent ]
exactly. by the mariner (4.00 / 2) #16 Thu May 03, 2012 at 03:40:54 PM EST
probably just a coincidence he did the same thing as the other guy who did write a note. hell, he could've even been trying to shoot himself in the head, but just missed. 

as for the note from the other guy, may've been forged.


[ Parent ]
That's a misreading though... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #18 Thu May 03, 2012 at 03:46:55 PM EST
the suggestion is they are killing themselves because the brain injuries are, essentially, driving them crazy.
However, there's starting to be an awareness that if their brains can be studied, maybe it can help others.

I don't know if I buy the altruism, but the rationale isn't unbelievable. Quite a few people with mental illness are sporadically aware that they are becoming something they don't want to be... 

[ Parent ]
a few years ago, there was a splurge of stories by lm (2.00 / 0) #19 Thu May 03, 2012 at 04:29:28 PM EST
Some WWE actor killed himself and his family. Roid rage was an early hypothesis but many news outlets also spotlighted brain injury from repeated blows to the head. There are former WWE guys and quite a few former NFL guys working the circuits to get current and former participants in such activities to donate their brains to science to study the issue.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
indeed, splurged all over the news. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #20 Thu May 03, 2012 at 07:32:51 PM EST
i remember seeing a page two feature on this a few years back. it was pretty well covered.

[ Parent ]
Oversimplified by yankeehack (2.00 / 0) #2 Thu May 03, 2012 at 10:44:03 AM EST
For a few reasons.
  1. I am not a statistician, but I think we can assume that in any population slice we look at, there will be an incidence of mental illness. Injuries to the head or not.
  2. Why can't we make the argument that perhaps football attracts more of the populace who would be susceptible to mental illness? Think about it, what kinds of boys are usually attracted to football? Large and athletic. Academics is usually a secondary, if any, concern.
2a) Take a look at the NFL Combine's Wonderlic test (avg intelligence) results for average football players.
  1. I don't doubt that repeated head injuries probably does aggravate injuries to the brain. But we don't know if there is a pattern or are only certain players susceptible due to genetics or the position they play or what have you.
  2. I definitely would not argue that players for the most part are encouraged to sacrifice their health to play. The average career is 3.5 - 6 years depending on their rookie roster status. And I don't think there is enough health screening for these players.
At the end of the day, the problem is that injuries to he brain are hidden as opposed to injuries to the knee.
"...she dares to indulge in the secret sport. You can't be a MILF with the F, at least in part because the M is predicated upon it."-CBB
This is new? by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu May 03, 2012 at 11:29:50 AM EST
I think the dangers of football have been known since the days of the flying wedge. I'm pretty sure the "football drops life expectancy by 20 years" (for 3-5 years of NFL ball + 3-4 years of NCAA) has been known since the 1970s.

Best guess is that it is more an issue of views deciding that maybe watching men destroy each other's lives may not be so wonderful. Also, the internet makes leaks so much easier. It is much harder to sweep things under the rug like payment for causing injuries now.

One way to check this is if there is any willingness to avoid downhill skiing (mainly just the downhill event) and keep bicycling away from mountains (a huge change, and probably heavily resisted considering the importance of climbing). While auto racing has managed to create extremely safe cages for racers (at least at the levels the mainstream sees), these sports just can't be made safe.

Wumpus

Cycling in the mountains dangerous? by Herring (4.00 / 1) #6 Thu May 03, 2012 at 11:53:24 AM EST
In the last ... ever there have been two fatalities on Grand Tours - Fabio Casartelli in 1995 and Wouter Weyland last year. That's a fairly low rate considering these guys can be touching 70mph (and cloth).

The most dangerous part of cycling appears to be being twatted by a car when out training.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
Perhaps he was thinking of this by marvin (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu May 03, 2012 at 01:06:58 PM EST
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwmlvyE75rA

That video was taken at the Gillard gap, which is about a half hour drive from my office. The next-door neighbour kids do similar types of extreme riding, all North Shore-type stuff that involves wearing body armor.

[ Parent ]
Must have just be the recent death by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #21 Thu May 03, 2012 at 07:42:26 PM EST
and comparing it to the "bloodsport" aspects claimed against various motor racing. I'm a bit more sure of the skiing aspect (not much more) and remember enough carnage, and little means of preventing more.

I have to wonder what it would take to build a high speed bicycle path (no strollers). I've never heard of one (I think a high level cyclist died in DCia several years back. I'm sure someone suggested staying on the bike paths only to be informed that going 35+mph wouldn't be such a good idea).

Wumpus

[ Parent ]
Tim White agrees with you by lm (2.00 / 0) #24 Fri May 04, 2012 at 07:56:53 AM EST
What Junior Seau's Death Tells Us About the Future of Football

I'm not certain. I don't think boxing was ever as integrated into the American way of life as football is.

What I can see, though, are rules that limit the number of concussions a player can take in their professional career, age limites, annual brain scans as part of being certified as fit to play, and more rules about what sorts of hits are allowed.

Personally, I'd also like to see almost all padding removed. But I don't see that happening.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
The problem seems to be by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #26 Fri May 04, 2012 at 08:30:24 AM EST
repeated sub-concussions. It starts in high school. What if tackle football is banned in high school?

From Tyler Cowen.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
I can't quite buy Tyler's domino effect reasoning by lm (2.00 / 0) #28 Fri May 04, 2012 at 09:29:00 AM EST
The thing is, football is already a regional sport. Even if the Ivies ditch their teams, and some state universities ditch their teams, there is the entrenched football culture not just in Texas and Oklahoma but also in Ohio, Indiana, the Carolinas, Alabama,  and so on. Between these regions, football will at least remain as profitable for broadcasters as golf, NASCAR, tennis and so on. It's going to take more than lawsuits to end the NFL. A good parallel might be the big tobacco companies. Despite lawsuits and overtly hostile legislation, I don't see the corporate descendants of RJR Reynolds and Phillip Morris sweating bullets, or going away anytime soon. Football culture is no less ingrained in the US than smoking culture.

I do like the idea of eliminating tackle football at the high school level. Good luck getting through school boards in Texas, but I like the idea.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I was thinking about this while on the bus by lm (2.00 / 0) #31 Sat May 05, 2012 at 01:03:15 PM EST
I think if schools banned tackle football, private amateur leagues would spring up all over in most of the US. If these leagues get sued, they'd just declare bankruptcy and another amateur league would be formed to take its place.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
it couldn't be run by the same people by garlic (2.00 / 0) #32 Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:41:44 AM EST
you can't dissolve your corporation (non-for-profit or not) upon getting sued, and then restart basically the same corporation the next week.


[ Parent ]
It won't be the end by jayhawk88 (2.00 / 0) #29 Sat May 05, 2012 at 10:11:40 AM EST
...but assuming the results do show concussion-related brain damage, I do think this might be a tipping point for major changes.

At the very least I think you'll see some rule changes designed to minimize the number and ferocity of such hits. We'll probably see the elimination of kickoffs at some point. There could be a movement to reduce the amount and (for lack of a better term) quality of padding players can wear, to try and slow the game down. Maybe we'll see weight limits for various positions. They'll likely crack down more on big hits like they're already doing.

We're only going to see more incidents like this, and not to be ghoulish, but I think this might even lead to more of them. Sort of like the school shooting thing; other players who are struggling might be unduly influenced by the media coverage and get it in their heads that they're doing something honorable, to help others down the road. I guarantee you that Seau won't be the last NFL player to shoot himself in the chest and request a brain autopsy.

Even now that the risks are better understood, players knowing what they're getting into/signing waivers/etc, I don't think that's enough. The potential rewards are so great, it's going to cloud the judgements of young people who naturally think they're invincible anyway, and largely come from poorer backgrounds.

No easy answer, but the boxing analogy is apt. If even subconsciously, people are going to continue to gravitate away from the sport unless major changes are made.

Is Junior Seau the End of the NFL? | 32 comments (32 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback