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 pushed aside by many forces. I even had the chance to interview Dr. Cantu and asked him about Dr. Omalu and his response was quick and to the point – said as if shameful; “I don’t want to talk about that subject.” If you care to understand more about Dr. Omalu you can look back through these archives or go to Irv Muchnick’s site and see why even though he discovered CTE he is not a hero in the public’s eyes – he should be.
Back to the article in the Bostonia and Caleb Daniloff, there is a great description of the CTE as well as what is being accomplished, however the most interesting information is how the NFL and others reacted to this news;
In early October 2009, as BU’s School of Medicine was gearing up to host a conference on athletes and concussion at Gillette Stadium, in Foxboro, Mass., home of the New England Patriots, the results of a long-touted study commissioned by the NFL had leaked to the media. The research showed the prevalence of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other memory-related diseases among retired players to be as much as 19 times higher than in the general U.S. male population. The league claimed the study was incomplete. Further findings, it said, would be needed.
“They had a very bizarre reaction,” Nowinski says. “They paid for the study, yet they tried to distance themselves from it. But you understand their position. The guys who commissioned the study are probably not the same guys who had to react to it.”
The study, conducted by the University of Michigan, helped prompt the House Judiciary Committee, headed by Michigan Democrat John Conyers, to order the first of several hearings on the subject. At the end of October 2009, Nowinski, Cantu, and McKee testified, along with dozens of other researchers, doctors, players, players’ wives and widows, league executives, and players’ union officials.
“There were a lot of ex–football players there,” McKee recalls. “The older ones reminded you of a neurology clinic. It was very sobering. You got the sense that this was mainstream.”
Stern believes that even as some in the NFL expressed doubts, Goodell and a few other league leaders had grasped the scope of the concussion problem before the hearings. In 2007, a year after Goodell took over, the league had established a fund for retired players struggling with dementia.
“Unfortunately, things were moving too fast and Goodell was made to look like a villain, when, in fact, he wasn’t,” Stern says. “He was stuck with having to deal with people who were still in important positions within the NFL, people who were the old guard. He wasn’t just going to undo things until he learned more.”
In November 2009, Goodell, in Boston for an owners’ meeting, asked Cantu to swing by for a private get-together. They talked for 90 minutes about ways to move the league forward on the concussion issue. Cantu stressed the importance of education at the USA Football level and of shutting down the MTBI Committee. Both have since happened.
As Will Carroll stated in the tweet, this is a must read… HOWEVER after seeing all of it remember the actual pioneer, Dr. Bennet Omalu.