What the new CTE test results mean for the future of the NFL

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Miami's Community Newspapers

Football, a game designed around the concept of having the world’s best athletes undergoing full-speed collisions, is universally known as the most dangerous sport.

Playing football possesses potential consequences ranging from the typical bumps and bruises, concussions, and minor injuries such as ankle and knee sprains, to major injuries like torn ACL’s and broken bones, as well as life threatening injuries like paralysis. For as long as the sport has been watched, played and enjoyed, the risk factor for injuries — specifically head injuries — has always been known to a certain extent.

In the past few years, much research has been conducted in effort to learn about head injuries and the brain damage that football players often endure from the sport. Finding out exactly how much trauma the sport causes in a player’s brain over their lifetime is the ultimate goal.

Steps towards this goal clearly have been taken by way of recent studies by Boston Brain Bank and lead author Dr. Ann Mckee, a Boston University neuroscientist. The study found that 90 percent of brains from deceased football players, and 99 percent of brains from NFL players, offer evidence that links their brains to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, better known as CTE disease, which is caused by concussions, head blows, and traumatic damage to the cranium.

This disease causes gradual deterioration of the brain. Although there are many questions to be answered in the future, along with many unknown factors to the study, CTE still is extremely frightening to current and former football athletes.

Yet it appears the NFL will thrive and survive, regardless of this information, which should be scaring athletes away from the game in droves. Perhaps one reason is that a greater portion of pro football players survived childhood circumstances that were much more challenging than their current lifestyles as NFL players.

Men who came out of impoverished environments to become pro players suddenly were capable of not just providing for their immediate families, but for their extended families as well. Some players who make a fortune in their professional careers ensure that their kids, grandkids, and their relatives will all be well off.

It is easy for many athletes to reason that the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be able take their loved ones far outweighs the risk of potential brain injuries. It can be seen as a sacrifice by some players — or simply a risk they are willing to take.

Recently on Fox Sports’ Undisputed, when former NFL tight end and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe was asked about CTE research, he said he would still play football again.

“It gave me an opportunity to do something for my family that I’m not necessarily sure I would have been able to do,” he said.

This sentiment clearly shows why the majority of future NFL players will continue to pursue their dreams of becoming NFL superstars, despite the risks. Although there always will be some players who choose to stop playing this brutal game, it will not take too great a toll on the league as there are so many talented players competing to make NFL rosters.

The National Football League will be around as long as the fans continue to enjoy the entertainment it brings them.

Blake Miller is a sophomore at the University Miami studying Business/Finance. He is a former Miami Herald All-County football and baseball player (2015-16) and runnerup for Athlete of the Year in 2016.


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