In retrospect, the negative effects of football on the human brain should have been obvious. Similar to cigarette smoke, exhaustive studies were needed to prove an irrefutable link before the NFL admitted to a self-evident fact: repeated blows to the head damage the brain, sometimes severely.
The damage proves to be nearly inescapable at the NFL level. Of 111 tested NFL players’ brains, 110 showed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE.
CTE ravages regular grey matter functionality, turning some players into shells of their former selves in later life. These players form the heart of the NFL economy, which ranges from stadium construction to NFL betting lines, played by millions around the world.
The near-universal rate of CTE among the first big study of ex-NFL players reveals an empire built on broken brains.
Luster of NFL career dims for modern players
NFL careers last, on average, a measly 3.3 years, shortest of all major pro leagues in North America. Injuries and concussions exist at rates more frequent than reported, with many players regularly pushing through pain.
Concussions have been reduced, as per NFL reports – but researchers point to smaller, less obvious hits as the main culprit of brain damage.
During a typical NFL career, players have been exposed to thousands of hits, all of which compound the damage over time. Linemen crash into each other with considerable force repeatedly during a game, creating the same energy as driving a car into a wall at 30 mph.
Concussions don’t typically happen during these common interactions, but the repeated brain-rattling can eventually lead to CTE.
All positions are exposed to brain injury, often forcing early retirement. Chris Borland left the league at the age of 24 after leading the NFL in tackles over 15 games. Borland cited CTE and examples of players who lived horribly in retirement as the reason he left the sport, despite performing at elite levels.
Baltimore Ravens lineman John Urschel hung up the cleats after only three years with the franchise, opting to pursue a math PhD at MIT at the age of 26. “Objectively, I shouldn’t,” John wrote in an article for The Players Tribune, referring to the risk of playing football. Urschel joined a growing number of players who retire early, choosing guaranteed health over a longer football career.
Doesn’t take a rocket scientist like John Urschel to figure out that the NFL has lost luster in the eyes of those who love the game the most.
NFL isn’t rushing to solve player safety
United States congress reported that the NFL conducted a “behind-the-scenes” campaign to discredit government studies of concussions in the league, after the NFL promised $30 million to research. The league left the deal with $16 million of the funds unpaid. It’s just another example of the NFL’s lack of urgency to prioritize player safety.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed over the past decade, the biggest of which represents more than 4,500 players and a settlement upwards of a billion dollars. Some sued over misrepresentation of the effects of concussions and repeated brain impacts.
Even Dan Marino filed a suit, which he eventually retracted. No other major pro sport league faces this type of litigation. Few employers deal with class action suits on this sort of scale.
Science searches for a solution
Medical science progresses quicker than the NFL, searching for cures to repeated head trauma. Currently, the holy grail is a “concussion pill” which purportedly reverses the effects of brain injuries. Progress was recently achieved in mice, who displayed the ability to bounce back after therapeutic intervention.
Of course, human brains are for more complex than a rodent’s, meaning a breakthrough is still far off. NFL helmets are also becoming more advanced, mitigating the force of hits through their cushioning capacity.
That still falls well short of where the NFL needs to be in terms of player safety.
Until a solution can massively curb head trauma, the NFL, NCAA and youth football faces an existential crisis.
One they need to deal with in an urgent matter, no matter the financial cost.
Broncos’ Von Miller Avoids Charges for Bloody Shark Photo on Instagram
Denver Broncos superstar linebacker Von Miller will not face charges for catching and posing with a bloody hammerhead shark back in 2018, according to documents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (h/t Deadspin).
Miller came under fire for a controversial photo posted on his Instagram story last year showing him with the bloody shark.
According to Florida Law, catching and releasing in this particular scenario would be fine, as long as the shark was “immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed.”
Per TMZ Sports, Miller and the group pushed the shark back overboard after catching it, and the compilation of Miller’s Instagram story shows that process as well as the shark swimming away.
Despite that, and as Deadspin’s story points out, the picture doesn’t exactly 100% convince that the shark was “unharmed”.
According to USA Today, the boat Miller was on was called ‘Spellbound’ and the owner and operator of the boat were not as fortunate as Miller in regards to the investigation.
“Owner and operator were charged under the Magnuson-Stevens Act for fishing for sharks without the proper permit and for failure to release a shark in the manner that will ensure maximum probability of survival. A $2,000 NOVA was issued.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission classifies hammerhead sharks as a Group 3 shark, and harvesting them in state waters can be met with a second degree misdemeanor.
In the state of Florida, second-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail, as determined by a judge.
Miller defended himself following the post, claiming that the shark didn’t die; “Everybody knows that I hunt and fish. It’s what I do” Miller said (h/t ESPN).
“But I also believe in conservation. I’m not just out there going crazy. We followed the rules. I did everything I was supposed to do.”
Raiders’ Antonio Brown Settles Lawsuit
New Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was acquired via trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this offseason, has struck a settlement with a man, Ophir Sternberg, that claimed that he nearly killed a toddle by throwing furniture off of a Miami apartment building balcony, according to TMZ.
In the lawsuit, Sternberg claims his 22-month-old son was walking around the pool at the high-end apartment complex back in April 2018 when suddenly “large objects started to fall from the building many floors above them.”
Sternberg claimed that Brown tossed everything from vases, an ottoman, and other pieces of furniture from the balcony and they landed within feet of the toddler.
Brown had denied throwing the items, claiming that it was another person who had access to his apartment on that day.
Police responded to the scene and reported that Brown was “very agitated” and yelling when they arrived, noting that people have been trying to calm Brown down.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Eagles’ Jalen Mills Arrested
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills was arrested in Washington D.C following an altercation with Washington Wizards player Devin Robinson, according to the Associated Press’ Howard Fendrich (via the Washington Post).
Both men were charged with disorderly affray, which is described as fighting in a public place.
According to the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, a verbal altercation broke out between the two that escalated into a physical fight that took place on the sidewalk.
Robinson was transported to a hospital following the fight with Mills and upon his release he was taken to to department’s 2nd District station where Mills was detained.
Mills and Robinson were “involved in a verbal altercation which escalated into a physical altercation on the sidewalk adjacent to the Opera Night Club” in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to the police report.
Both teams have since responded, with the Wizards essentially parting ways with Robinson due to the incident.
“We are aware of the incident this morning involving Devin and are disappointed in his actions. We will not extend him a qualifying offer for the 2019-20 season,” the Wizards said in a statement.
The Eagles issued a statement saying that they are “aware of the situation” and “continuing to gather more information.”
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