C.T.E. and the Truth Below the Helmet

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The sport of professional football is a spectacular spectacle. Every Sunday throughout football season, 53 highly-conditioned athletes take the field, battling against an opposing 53-man machine for the right to be crowned victorious. These players have honed their skills over decades of practice and intense training, meeting head-to-head – often literally – to assert their dominance in every aspect of competition. It is truly America’s game, but what is the cost of such a sensational show?

Recently, a neuropathologist examined the brains of 111 former NFL players. Of those 111 specimens, 110 were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E.  Despite this incriminating evidence, however, the NFL has never been more popular or financially successful. Even the leagues commissioner has downplayed the study, stating that “the average NFL player lives five years longer than you, so their lifespan is actually longer and healthier. And I think because of all the advancements -- including the medical care -- that number is going to even increase for them.”

Is the NFL attempting to mask a dark reality facing the athletes we adore? What is the reality facing the players so many people cheer on every week? Can anything be done to prevent further damage to those players? Should we allow our own children to play the violent game that’s offered by so many programs throughout adolescence? What are the risks associated with playing football? And, as players continue to grow larger, faster and more powerful, what does the future of football look like?

As the NFL season gets into full swing, we sat down with the Dean of PNWU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine Dr. Thomas Scandalis, our Associate Dean for Pre-Clinical Education Dr. Robert Sorrells and former NFL tight end, Super Bowl champion and author of “Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away,” Ben Utecht, to discuss C.T.E., the sport of football and the reality behind what is occurring below the helmets we dedicate our Sunday’s to.

Cassidy Brown