CTE in NFL Players

Dylan DeCoteau, Cub Reporter

Junior Seau, Andre Waters, and Dave Duerson are former NFL players who were found to have severe CTE after their deaths, all by suicide. 

Aaron Hernandez, a former player committed suicide after being convicted of murder in 2013. He was found to have a severe case of CTE.

Jovan Belcher, a former player killed his girlfriend, then himself in 2012. He was found to have a severe case of CTE.

These cases all have one thing in common. They all had cases of CTE linked to the repeated hits they took while playing in the NFL. The rules put in place by the NFL aren’t protecting these players. There’s not much you can do to avoid hitting in football but one thing they need to change is the concussion protocol. The concussion protocol allows players who may have smaller concussions to continue to play and risk further issues. 

If we really want to make football safer we need to do more when it comes to the protocols players take after the initial hit.  Instead of rushing a player back into the game after a concussion or letting them play the rest of the game and listing them as injured after the game, we should take more precautions about putting the player in a position to make the concussion worse. 

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE as it’s commonly referred to, is a brain degeneration linked to repeated head traumas throughout an extended period of time. 

Football players, hockey players, or anyone who repeatedly suffers hits in the head can develop this condition over their lifetime and it may take years for symptoms to become present. 

There are four stages of CTE. Stage one is the earliest sign of CTE where lesions are found in the frontal lobe causing memory loss. Stage two is the lesions spreading to the adjacent cortex causing more memory loss. The frontal lobe is permanently damaged causing issues with cognitive skills and impulse control. Stage three is when the lesions take over the medial temporal lobe, causing violent reactions, paranoia, and almost complete memory loss. The final stage, stage four is when the brain has been taken over by CTE in many different areas. The fourth stage is linked with dementia and complete memory loss.

CTE can only be diagnosed after post-mortem so it is harder to make precautions to try and protect players when we can’t figure out if a person has it till death.

In 2019 Boston University held a study finding more than 315 former players such as Hall of Famers Ken Stabler and Frank Gifford have been diagnosed with CTE. Every five and half years a player plays, they double the risk for the most severe cases of CTE according to the study.

Yes, the National Football League has implemented 47 different rules since 2002 designed to strengthen the medical protocols and rules of the game to protect players more, but they continue to have issues on concussion protocol for the league and how that can affect players. 

The concussion protocols are supposed to be the protocols taken in order to protect players when they show any signs of a concussion of any measure, but they aren’t as protective as they claim to be. Countless times you’ll see a player return to a game after appearing to suffer a concussion or show any signs of it and after the game they are then listed as having a concussion. That’s not ok.

There needs to be a change of approach, not a change of the game.