In the category of must read, this piece on Grantland by Jane Leavy is one the mouth-breathing, booger-eating, Neanderthal types who thing science is ruining the game, should become acquainted with (if they can even read). Dr. McKee and people like me are not trying to take away the sports you love. In fact we are trying to save them, football included.
Dr. McKee is a fan, just like most of us;
Every football Sunday, she parks herself in front of the TV in her authentic Packers foam Cheesehead ($17.95 at packersproshop.com) and Rodgers’s no. 12 jersey and prays that none of the men on the field end up on a dissection table. To date, she has found ravages of CTE, the neurodegenerative brain disease that has become her life’s work, in over 70 athletes, nearly 80 percent of those she has examined. Among them: 18 of the 19 NFL players she has autopsied; three NHL enforcers; and a boy just 17 years old. McKee, who received $1 million in funding from the VA as well as a home for her lab, has also documented evidence of CTE in combat veterans exposed to roadside bombs.1
“The coolest thing about Ann is she spends all day doing autopsies on NFL players and can’t wait for the weekend to put on her Packer sweatshirt and climb into bed with a big bag of popcorn and a beer,” says Gay Culverhouse, former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who now advocates on behalf of former players.
“Well, I don’t usually do it in my bed,” McKee says.
Dr. McKee relishes her job, no matter how anyone sees it;
War-painted denizens of the upper deck may view her as The Woman Trying To Destroy Football. In fact, she is The Woman Trying To Save Football From Itself. The process has engendered a particular intimacy with those who entrust their loved ones to her posthumous care. Virginia Grimsley, whose husband, John, was the first NFL player diagnosed by McKee, says, “He’s in good hands with her. They’re all in good hands with her.
“If Joe Six-Pack was as educated as the wives that have gone through this and as Dr. McKee, Joe Six-Pack would sit down, shut up, and continue to drink his six-pack,” Grimsley says. “She’s not trying to destroy football.”
McKee says: “I’m just trying to tell football what I see.”
It is not easy being Dr. McKee as Leavy explained;
Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine, says she needs to publish more in peer-reviewed journals and conduct studies with controls comparing incidence in collision sports with other athletes, such as rowers and female basketball players. He also says she has crossed the divide from hard science into advocacy. “She’s possessed,” says Ellenbogen. “She is no longer impartial.”
This is a charge Cantu adamantly rejects: “She is a scientist first, not an activist first.”
McKee sighs. “You get enemies in this business.” She must tread a not-so-fine line between SLI’s advocacy mission and the publishing protocols of medical research. “This was discussed from the day we started working together,” Nowinski says. “She recognized she would be criticized in academic circles for talking about [some of] the work before academic publication. A lot of the blame — pushing for some of the information to get out comes from me.”
Hovda, whose research into the neurobiology of concussions demonstrated the vulnerability of the brain to second insults, says McKee’s science is rigorous, significant, and does not overinterpret the available data, which is inherently limited by the facts of neuropathology — you only get to diagnose people who are already dead.
So listen up you over-testosterone, head-in-the-sand, no progress types. This woman is a big reason you will continue to have football in the future. If you cannot read, perhaps you can listen to Jane Leavy HERE.
That was a great piece. I love Grantland. But tell us how you really feel dude!