Tag Archives: Mike Webster

The United States of Football

29 Aug

I am staring blankly at this screen, in the dark listening to The Kyle Turley Band play “Final Drive”, trying to make sense of what I just watched.  There have been some great comments from some great people about this film by Sean Pamphilon;

The United States of Football is a passionate, unflinching, and eye-opening look at the concussion crisis in football.  Sean Pamphilon’s heartfelt concern for this issue is palpable, and the film reflects the trust he earned from many football players and families that have been tragically affected by C.T.E.”   (Steve James, director of “Hoop Dreams”)

“Pamphilon’s work is deep, fair, principled and haunting. He gives voice to the unheard, and that voice forces you to think, feel, fear and weep. His film is like the gladiators in it — uncommonly strong.”  (Dan LeBatard–sports personality)

“A compelling and revealing look at the most important issue facing the National Football League.”  (Bob Costas, broadcaster)

Even those do not do justice to what this film is.  Certainly, each person that sees this film – AND YOU SHOULD – will walk away with different takes, but there are some undeniable problems within the business of football.  The sport, at its core, remains beautiful and a test of mans will, Continue reading

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Series from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on CTE

16 May

Mark Roth of the Pittsburgh Post-Gaette put together an informational series on chronic traumatic encephalopathy; “a brain disease that afflicts athletes”.

In the first part that came out this past Sunday, Roth took a look at the global perception of CTE through the examples of Chris Henry and the possible case of still living Fred McNeill;

Chris Henry was a fleet wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. During his five seasons with the team, he developed a reputation as a talented athlete on the field but a bad boy off it, even though those who knew him well say he was typically quiet and respectful. [...]

Fred McNeill played 12 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings in the ’70s and ’80s. After retiring, he finished law school and became a successful attorney in Minneapolis, helping to win major class-action lawsuits.

Henry would end up dead after an accident that was predicated with some unusual actions by him, McNeill now has full-time care takers as dementia has stripped him of everything he worked hard for.

Roth begins the second piece with those that can be easily called the experts in this area, Bennet Omalu and Ann McKee; Continue reading

Greatest Football Team Ever in Canada – Head Games

14 May

The Fifth Estate of CBC aired a documentary on the “Greatest Football Team Ever” in Canada, not as a retrospective homage to the good times, rather as an unfolding mystery.  The most peculiar thing about this very good documentary is that it was originally aired, not a year ago, not even two but in 2008.  Much has been discovered about repetitive brain trauma since 2008 the video is haunting just to view it with “today’s” eyes.

They have been called the greatest football team in the history of the CFL — the Edmonton Eskimos of the 1970s and ’80s that won five consecutive Grey Cups. But, for some of the star players on that team, the years of triumph ended ingloriously in early deaths, from heart attack, suicide and misadventure. The tragedy of those early deaths was often compounded by alcohol or drug addictions, probably caused by another, less visible, killer. Recent research by neuroscientists now shows the link between on-the-field concussions and brain damage; a permanent injury that can lead to depression, suicide and severe aberrant behaviour. The damage is so profound, the researchers say, that post-mortem examinations of the brain tissue of five former professional football players can be compared only to the tissue found in the brain tissue of advanced Alzheimers cases.

Unfortunately I cannot embed the piece you can CLICK HERE to see it in full.  You will get to hear from very important people who are not nearly as high-profile as those hailing from Boston; Dr. Julian Bailes, Garrett Webster, son of Mike Webster and Dr. Bennet Omalu.

Playing With Fire

29 Nov

We have discussed how playing with a brain injury can be dangerous; more immediately dangerous for the younger athlete.  However, continually disturbing the brain while it is recovering only prolongs the issue and is a detriment to long-term brain health.  This is the part of sports that gives credence to the awareness and education initiative.

Apparently the NFL, specifically the Pittsburgh Steelers, does not fully grasp everything involved with and around concussions.  I would think that of all the teams that should be well versed in the history of concussions and health risks it would be the former employer of Mike Webster.  Along with Webster, the Steelers have been on the cutting edge of research, perhaps not the team – rather those that are associated with them: Continue reading

Knowing Is Half The (UPDATE)

21 Apr

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter @SpMedConcepts I should write that one test is just a piece to the puzzle.  And a comprehensive testing procedure that includes all of the available “baselines” and assessments should be used.  It becomes more difficult to cloud the picture with deception when using this approach.

Knowing about concussions is one thing, but knowing that players may take advantage of the system is another factor.  Like anything else in this world people will look to exploit weaknesses in systems to gain an advantage.  After all isn’t that the crux of competition and sports?  We have seen Irv Muchnick open up the dialogue on Ritalin as a possible way to “cheat the system” and now Alex Marvez of Fox Sports tells us the other, more obvious way to “cheat the system”;

Dr. Daniel Amen, who has treated current and former players for post-concussion symptoms, said some of his clients have confessed to fudging the initial baseline tests administered by NFL teams. By doing so, Amen said those players are seeking quicker clearance to return from any future head injuries they might suffer.

If the baseline tests are to be used to compare then why try hard and excel at them, only to have that first test hinder their return?  This is the common question that the professional and adolescent athletes are dealing with.  Even though baseline tests, be it neurocognitive computer based or hand written like the SCAT2 or the new NFL test, are objective Continue reading

Recent ABC Story

26 Feb

ABC has run a very extensive story about head injuries in sport (see football) in light of the Duerson suicide.  The article is good but what is striking are the videos associated with it.  Not only the embedded video on the first page, but the sourced videos below it, mainly about Mike Webster (Driven Mad?).

Neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, MD, who was the first to identify the condition, told MedPage Today, “There is no reason, no medical justification, for any child younger than 18 to play football, period.”

As we should know Omalu is the godfather of CTE, he first found it with Webster and subsequently other former NFL’ers, once called a “doctor of Voodoo medicine” Omalu has some of the best perspective on this injury.

“People said then, and still are saying today, that when former athletes deteriorate into depression, drug abuse, and even violence and criminality, it’s because they don’t compete well on the field of life after competing well on the field of football,” Omalu said in an interview with MedPage Today. Continue reading

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