The Reaction in Media to Seau’s Death

3 May

We have seen a snippet of what the former players have said, in this post I will pass along articles and samples of them.  The underlying current is troubling for football.  We have posted and posted and posted about this from the word go here, caution and education seem to be the tenants to keeping football safe, however it will never be completely “safe” but in regards to traumatic brain injuries there are answers.

If one wants to really divest themselves of emotion over the sport of football then the answers are clear.  However the current answers are only a STEP in the right direction.  Eventually finding all independent information about repeated blows to the head in sport may be a doomsday for some.

The first article to highlight is by Andy Staples of SI.com;

Did the game Junior Seau loved help take his life? We don’t know. We don’t know why one of the greatest linebackers of his generation shot himself in the chest Wednesday and died at 43, leaving behind three children. It’s entirely possible his demons came from other external factors. Maybe they were always there. We don’t know. But given everything we’ve learned in the past few years about the brain damage caused by repeated head trauma, the immediate reaction is to point the finger at football.

That’s the biggest problem the sport has right now. Not bounties. Not performance-enhancing drugs. It’s the mounting evidence that repeated shots to the head could be slowly killing football players. Even if it had nothing to do with Seau’s death, football has lost the benefit of the doubt. Every time a far-too-young ex-player dies after suffering some sort of mental distress, football will be the prime suspect.

Sam Mellinger of the Victoria Advocate and KC Star;

How much longer can this go? What’s your tolerance for this? How much stamina do you have for the men you cheer today dying tragic and premature deaths in the coming years?

How much longer can you be a fan of a sport that appears to be killing its athletes?

Sports are supposed to be an escape from real life. That’s part of what makes us love them so much, part of what makes football one of America’s most popular forms of entertainment. For three hours every Saturday or Sunday, there is no mortgage payment, no deadline at work, no medical bills.[...]

But we do know that football leads to concussions, and concussions can lead to depression, and depression can lead to suicide. The pattern is undeniable. We also know this chilling next paragraph to be true:

There is not only precedent for ex-football players killing themselves, but precedent for them doing it with a gunshot to the chest so their brains can be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of brain damage related to blows to the head.

Think about that. It’s almost as though these former NFL players are teaching each other how to kill themselves without stunting the progress of science to hopefully learn more about an awful trend in which we are all conspirators.

If those last four words make you uncomfortable, well, good. They should. Makes me uncomfortable to write them, but it’s the truth. The brutal truth.

Mark Emmons the Oakland Tribune;

George Visger, a member of the 1982 49ers Super Bowl team said “there’s no doubt in my mind” that football head trauma had at least some role.
[...]

Visger’s voice cracked Wednesday as he spoke of Seau.

“More and more bodies are just piling up,” he said. “This has just rattled me.”

The NFL, Visger added, is beginning to understand the threat posed by the growing number of lawsuits.

“Players are coming out of the woodwork now and the NFL is trying to find a way out of this,” he said. “But how do you settle with Junior Seau’s family? Or Dave Duerson’s family? Or Mike Webster’s family? How do you compensate them?”

Michael O’Keeffe, New York Daily News;

The calls started pouring in to the Endo Surgical Center of North Jersey shortly after the news of Junior Seau’s apparent suicide hit the Internet and the airwaves on Wednesday. Freaked-out NFL retirees wanted Dr. William Focazio to run tests on them to make sure they won’t be the next one who dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

It’s not clear what role the repeated hits football players suffer to their heads played in the death of the great San Diego Chargers linebacker, but a lot of retirees were assuming that there was a direct connection between serial concussions and the dark emotions that must have prompted Seau to point a gun to his chest and pull the trigger.

“We’ve been getting calls from players all day,” says Focazio, the founder of Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatment, a New Jersey medical group that provides pro bono care to destitute and uninsured NFL players. “They are concerned about themselves. They want to get tested.

Jeff Neuman, Real Clear Sports;

Brain chemistry – in the form of tau proteins indicating trauma-induced injury that can cause depression, personality changes, impaired judgment and impulse control problems – may have had nothing to do with it.

But that would be a surprise.

And the fact that it would be a surprise tells us something important.

We know that football is a violent, dangerous game. It wouldn’t be so thrilling otherwise.

We’ve known for a long time the toll it takes on bones, joints, muscles, tendons, cartilage; the pain it causes long after players have left the field for good.

And the speed of our leap to a conclusion means we know, whether we want to or not, that the presence of CTE is a logical assumption in anyone who has played football for an extended time.

The league has to be worried about the consequences of this growing understanding. It’s one thing to ask players to ignore risks to the body; football players pride themselves in their ability to overcome pain.

It’s quite another to knowingly expect players to set aside reservations about damage to the brain.

Everything about football on the professional level has to change. Practice regimens, equipment, technique, training, player awareness – all must be altered to reflect our growing understanding of the neurological results of participation.

If I had a son who wanted to play football, I’d suggest he take up something less dangerous. Like drugs.

Although Seau was never listed as having a concussion in his career, mind you he played while the NFL was still in the dark-ages regarding brain trauma, an ESPN report states he did in fact sustain concussions during his career;

Gina Seau said her ex-husband did sustain concussions during his nearly 20-year NFL career.

“Of course he had. He always bounced back and kept on playing,” she said in a phone interview. “He’s a warrior. That didn’t stop him. I don’t know what football player hasn’t. It’s not ballet. It’s part of the game.”

Gina Seau said she didn’t know if the effects of concussions contributed to Seau’s death.

“We have no clues whatsoever. We’re as stunned and shocked as anyone else. We’re horribly saddened. We miss him and we’ll always love him,” she said.

Taylor Twellman, a former soccer star in MLS, was a neighbor of Seau’s in Oceanside, Calif. He said Thursday that he told Seau one time that he had suffered a concussion playing soccer and was experiencing bad headaches. Twellman said that Seau admitted that he also suffered from headaches from multiple concussions playing football.

The answers you ask:

  • No tackle football or collision sports until the age of 14 (although that is an arbitrary age due to no scientific backing, it at least gets the kids to near physical maturity)
  • Participation in collision sports must include an athletic trainer to address ALL sports related catastrophic injuries
  • Independent research and transparent knowledge across the board related to concussions

I am sure I will think of more…

Collection of the articles was done by Matt Chaney.

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2 Responses to “The Reaction in Media to Seau’s Death”

  1. Jon May 3, 2012 at 18:53 #

    Dustin,

    This statement is very concerning to me as an ATC, “Players joked about how Seau would call everyone “buddy-buddy” because he didn’t always remember their names. He was a hard worker, but he also liked to keep it light. ”

    http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4721571/reflecting-on-seaus-time-with-pats

    Was he not able to remember their names due to repetitive head trauma, and if so, why didn’t any of his “loving” teammates say something to the medical staff?

  2. A Concerned Mom May 3, 2012 at 19:56 #

    http://www.mercurynews.com/49ers/ci_20542616/former-seau-teammate-gary-plummer-he-was-crying?source=rss

    “”In the 1990s, I did a concussion seminar with (agent) Leigh Steinberg that talked about concussions. They said a Grade 3 concussion meant you were knocked out, and a Grade 1 meant you were seeing stars after a hit, which made me burst out in laughter. As a middle linebacker in the NFL, if you don’t have five of these (Grade 1 effects) each game, you were inactive the next game.”

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