(Project Brain Wave) In 2007, at a Senate subcommittee hearing regarding the implications of long-term cognitive deficits as it relates to repetitive trauma to the head in football, Dave Duerson questioned the legitimacy of such a claim by dismissing any thoughts of relation to the game he played and loved to the neurological struggles of his peers. Such an assertion at the time was of course denied by many involved with the game, and was largely considered an attack on the forefront of football’s integrity. During his career, Duerson had at least ten concussions, and lost consciousness during some, according to his family. And yet Duerson’s argument was founded upon the following claim:
“In regards to the issue of Alzheimer’s, my father’s 84, and as I mentioned earlier, Senator, spent 30 years at General Motors,” Duerson testified. “He also has—he also has Alzheimer’s and brain damage but never played a professional sport. So the challenge, you know, in terms of where the damage comes from, is a fair question.”
2007 was a time of inquiry for the national pride of football, as it found itself under tremendous scrutiny dating back to the finding of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame center, “Iron” Mike Webster. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that develops as a result of repetitive head trauma. This trauma includes the symptomatic, and asymptomatic concussive blows to the head. It is a disease that is associated with memory loss, impulse control problems, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, and eventual progressive dementia, most notably characterized by the build-up of tau protein in the brain—an abnormal protein that serves as a decisive key to the mental deterioration of the individual.
What is it that Duerson allowed to blockade his openness to such a proposal? Without a doubt the pride instilled in the football athlete holds true and strong to the immense withholding of responsibility to the game itself. Players will defend their sport, because they feel indebted to the numerous life lessons, experiences, and unforgettable memories that paint the legacies of players such as Duerson. It is also a tremendous rejection of anything that may have been perceived to be a way of life to rather be a way of deferring one’s future to that of an accelerated cognitive decline. It is fear. It is knowing that the unknown could be developing without your awareness. Duerson’s comments regarding the rejection of such a proposal of neurodegenerative implication as a result of playing football signify the feelings of the time. After all, this was only found in just a few of his fellow football retirees. This was something that was not widely accepted or acknowledged by those with medical degrees all throughout, and it certainly was something that the National Football League was not willing to endorse. Continue reading