I remember the anguish that punctured my thoughts when Junior Seau, a star in his own right on the gridiron, placed a handgun to his chest and took his own life eight months ago at his California home. Sitting in my room, I sunk into my chair and spoke no words for more than an hour while giving all I could to refrain from shedding any tears. His death struck me in an unforgettable way that positioned myself, once again, at a crossroads with football and its place in our culture infatuated with the image of the modern-day gladiator.
On May 3, 2012, the day after Seau’s suicide, I scrambled for answers with the shadows of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) looking over my back. I ran a number of searches in Google’s archives for newspaper articles from the 1990s to find some sort of explanation for his actions, but rarely was Seau’s name mentioned directly in relation to a head injury. Although my efforts were rather premature and assuming, there had to be some sort of correlation between Seau’s noted altercations behind closed doors with the thousands of hits his brain endured over the course of a 19-year professional career.
There are, of course, many different storylines that people turn to to explain something so tragic immediately after its occurrence, but confirmation of my original hypothesis (shared by many, I’m sure) by the National Institute of Health several days ago left me in an inexplicable state of unsettled anxiety. Though I inferred Seau would be diagnosed postmortem with CTE, my response to the official announcement was still along the lines of, “Unbelievable.” Continue reading
Since the tragic and untimely death of Junior Seau the concussion issue has begun to fester like a three-day old pimple on a 13 year-old’s greasy face. It is ready to pop and keeping up with all of the pertinent articles and “specials” has been very trying. In this post I will attempt to link up and highlight as many as I can (surely I will miss many, however Concerned Mom in the comment section will have more).
Lets begin with ESPN and the Outside the Lines week-long look at concussions. I have found this to be must see, my DVR is a testament to this; using previous stories and bringing in commentators on the subject have provided information and even fireworks. Yesterday Merril Hoge and Matt Chaney did just that – provide information and create fireworks. You can find the podcast here (panelists begin about 7:30 mark).
Hoge drew my ire earlier this week with his admonishing of Kurt Warner’s statement of being a father, however yesterday he did have a very valid point about the management of concussions. I have said is ad nausea here: the elephant in the room is the management of concussions, however Hoge sounded a bit “underconcerned” about the actual injury. Which is where Chaney had very valid points about the exposure of concussions to the youth. They are both right in my estimation; the management is the larger issue but we are seeing too many too young people being effected by concussions. There needs to be work in both areas and remember this is not just a football issue.
We have the duty to protect our kids and if that means flag football for 5-13 year-olds then I am cool with that. If we find after making such a drastic change that has not been enough then we can take it further if needed. I feel that a change like this will allow a few things: 1) more time to let the brain develop and thus allowing research to catch up to what we know. 2) employ more medical providers in a position to find, assess and manage concussions (see athletic trainers). And 3) begin a culture shift about the seriousness of concussions, after all this is a brain injury.
As Chaney later told me; Continue reading
Thirteen days before Junior Seau was found dead in California with an apparent gun shot wound to the chest there was another former NFL player who ended his own life. His name was obviously not as “powerful” as Seau’s however, Ray Easterling left in his wake just as much trouble and turmoil over the issue of head injuries.
In an article written by Mike Tierney of the New York Times it is tough to shrug off all that we have come to know over the past few years, just read about how Mary Ann Easterling, Ray’s widow, is handling and plans to go forward with her life and her husbands legacy;
For Mary Ann Easterling, the prudent and less painful options, it might seem, are to move away and move on.
Relocate from the home where she found the body of her husband, Ray, a handgun nearby, and the neighborhood where Ray, a former N.F.L. safety, would become disoriented on long-distance jogs, sometimes prompting one-woman search parties at 2 a.m.
Withdraw his name from the class-action lawsuit that accuses the league of improperly caring for retired players with head injuries, a consequence that she contends turned Ray’s last two decades into a living, foggy hell.
Instead, Mary Ann, 59, plans to go nowhere. She won’t leave the brick ranch house on Continue reading
Even with the recent events of the Junior Seau passing the issue of concussions, CTE, safety, and longevity of the sport have been very much a hot topic. What hasn’t happened, until recently, is the overt and valuable opinions of those that played in the public forum. Yesterday while traveling to the high school I was listening to the radio and hearing what Kurt Warner had to say about his thoughts as a father watching his sons play football. Basically he stated that AS A FATHER he had concerns and was worried for his children, mainly because of safety and the long-term effects of playing. He himself stated he is “worried” about his health going forward as well.
All genuine and pertinent information from a former player that carries a lot of weight, and I didn’t have one problem with it. Even though he stated he didn’t want his kids to play (as a father) he is not the first, Harry Carson made the same statements about his grandchildren. What caught me completely off-guard was the reaction from former player, teammate of Warner and NY Giant (same team as Carson), Amani Toomer;
“What this reminds me of is the guy at the basketball court, who once he gets done playing takes the ball and ruins the game for everybody else,” Toomer said Thursday on NBC SportsTalk. “I think Kurt Warner needs to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to this. Everything that he’s gotten in his life has come from playing football. He works at the NFL Network right now. For him to try and trash the game, it seems to me that it’s just a little disingenuous to me.”
Disingenuous? He is a father concerned about the safety of his children, how in the world is that disingenuous? Yes the sport Continue reading
In the aftermath of the suicide of Junior Seau the most pressing question was if the family was going to allow researchers to study his brain in-depth. It has now been reported that the Seau family has agreed to this as Michael O’Keeffe wrote last night;
Two research groups — the Brain Injury Research Institute and Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy — made bids to persuade Seau’s family to donate his brain to them within 24 hours after the Pro Bowl linebacker’s death.
It sounds ghoulish for scientists to vie for a beloved athlete’s brain so soon after his death, but the researchers needed to let the Seau family know of their interest before it makes arrangements for his remains. “You can’t do this kind of test on a living person,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, the director of the Brain Injury Research Institute.[...]
“Either they get it or we get it,” Bailes said Thursday before the Seau family told BIRI it would donate Junior’s brain to the Boston researchers. Bailes said it could help researchers determine if genetics play a role in CTE, or whether concussions — as opposed to repeated, but less serious, blows to the head — are necessary to bring on CTE.
“This specimen needs to be examined,” Bailes said. “It doesn’t matter who does it. There are only two groups doing this kind of work.”
Although the BIRI – Continue reading
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; Continue reading
With all the illogical conclusions that are happening in the press there are some small positives already. The biggest of which, less than 24 hours after the untimely death of a great individual is the former players speaking out about depression and post-career condition. No longer has it become taboo to talk of depression.
Now players need to take stock of their physical and mental health, some players are such as Emmitt Smith;
“Depression & suicide are serious matters and we as current and former NFL players should demand better treatment. Lack of info … no more!!!,” former Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith said on his Twitter account.
“And for you current players who think this issue doesn’t effect u. Get your head out of your but. Where u r 2day was his (Seau’s) yesterday.”
In the same article James Johnston Jr., had this comment on former NFL’ers; Continue reading
Shortly before this blog began in September of 2010 there was a brilliant article written in Bostonia regarding the work that Boston University was doing. This article did not fall into my lap until yesterday during the Junior Seau reporting, it was found tweeted out by none other than Will Carroll, @injuryexpert.
We have come to understand a bit more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) though the work of those in Boston. It would be an absolute shame to not mention the person who first found this brain issue, Dr. Bennet Omalu. Dr. Omalu found it but then was unceremoniously Continue reading
With the tragic news of the death, at his own hands, of Junior Seau along with the peculiarly similar initial circumstances of Dave Duerson everyone needs to step back. Yes, the very first thought that crossed my mind was Dave Duerson upon hearing the reports, mainly by Twitter. However, what we must collectively do now is allow the process to unfold.
Not unlike sustaining a concussion the news is just the beginning. When someone sustains a concussion often there are instant leaps to conclusions about time missed, long-term effects, and safety. With a concussion it is a process, after time is allowed to properly asses the situation, create a plan and implement it there is nothing more to note other than it is a concussion.
And just like concussions people act in different ways, there is no rhyme or reason for many of these tragic situations, often it is because one has not had the proper education and levity of the situation.
I would just like to caution EVERYONE, let the process begin without jumping to conclusions. In due time we will find out all the necessary information. I for one hope against all hope that this has nothing to do with his brain health.
Thank You. #C4CT