Articles by Natural Health Author Paul Fassa
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Football's Brain Damage Controversy
by Paul Fassa
(The Best Years in Life) The controversy started in 2002 when a Nigerian immigrant MD, Dr. Bennet Omalu, performed an autopsy on a Pittsuburgh Steeler football legend, center “iron” Mike Webster. Dr. Omalu was equipped with lots of educational and medical certificates that started at a young age. He was a medical and academic prodigy.
The controversy had fittingly peaked in 2013 with the Frontline documentary League of Denial and in 2015 with the movie “Concussion”, which focused on Dr. Omalu's discovery and how it affected his life and the lives of former NFL players and their families. The movie focused more on Dr. Omalu's struggles with the NFL, while Frontline focused more on the NFL's denial even as other scientists started determining CTE with brains from deceased players.
Dr. Omalu Meets “Iron” Mike Webster
As a coroner in Pittsburgh, his posthumous examination of Pittsburgh Steeler football legend Mike Webster led to creating a controversial investigation that shook the NFL until it recently finally admitted in 2016 to Dr. Omalu's and others' findings.
Dr. Omalu had discovered the unique markings of the brain and behavioral characteristics that came to define CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encilopathy), and others have followed in determining the danger of repeated trauma or blows to the head, not repeated concussions, which are separate entities.
CTE is actually a progressive disease once it initially manifests in the brain after repeated trauma, which are not necessarily concussions. It has similarities to Alzheimer's but it's not the same. It can resemble dementia pugilistica, commonly called “punch drunk”, or as in Muhammad Ali's case other neurological disease.
It's important to realize that in football, especially among linemen, bumping heads against others' helmets and pads with hard exteriors occurs many times in each game and during full pad scrimmage practices is the hazard, not just concussions. CTE manifests somewhere along the line and gets worse with time. These are internal head injuries. The helmets protect against skull fractures.
But the brain is not anchored in the skull with shock absorbers. It's almost floating. And sudden forced stops and impacts allow the brain to bounce into the inner skull at high velocity. Even heavy metal “head bangers” can have some CTE risks. But heavy men banging into each other at high speeds is a harbinger of mini-concussions leading to CTE progression after quitting the game.
Memory and intellectual loss is part of the package, but not all of it. It also creates havoc in the area of the brain that governs emotions. This is why Dr. Omalu says he'd “bet his medical certificate that OJ Simpson has CTE.”
Many family members of deceased NFL players were actually relieved to finally understand their loved ones were suffering from a brain disease that made them incapable of handling affairs and worse. Unpredictable rage and anger made their relatives and close friends think they had just turned bad. Had they known of CTE, they would have been more understanding.
NFL player suicides and even homicides or murder attempts were the ways many of them had left this stage of life. Until now, it could only be determined among the dead athletes' brains. Mike Webster died homeless and crazy even after he had managed to get a pension from the NFL to support his family prior to his death.
Even though he regrets getting mixed up with the “politics of science” and enduring the NFL's crushing blows, Dr. Omalu is working on diagnosing CTE while athletes' are alive. He is also trying to determine its treatment before total disability with some UCLA medical scientists. CTE is a progressively worsening disease.
Even after quitting the game of constant physical collisions, once CTE begins it usually worsens on its own, without continually colliding. So far, it's not detectable until a posthumous analysis of a brain that's been sliced and stained then examined under microscope. CT scans don't give it away. There's no swelling or inflammation.
Others Jump In With More Evidence of CTE from Football
In the Frontline Documentary, football hall of fame former NY Giants linebacker Larry Carson reiterates how it's not just about concussions, but the constant banging that creates the potential for long the term progressive brain disease of CTE. He expressed concerns about his own health after football.
Even a high school player's brain who had no record of concussion exhibited CTE when his brain was donated after his death. CTE is actually not only a concussion issue. It may appear that one retires from football mentally intact at first, but later winds up killing himself a few years later after his life goes into a complete tailspin, like famous San Diego Charger linebacker Junior Seau.
His brain was given to the NIH (National Institutes for Health) for analysis after an NFL official badmouthed Dr. Omalu to Junior Seau's son, who had granted Omalu permission to take the brain. He then refused it to Dr. Omalu after Omalu had gone to San Diego and removed it from the cadaver. Ironically, the NIH didn't cover the NFL. The NIH determined Junior Seau was a victim of CTE.
Fate and the NFL's clout at putting Dr. Omalu down despite associates with higher acclaim endorsing his findings. Dr. Omalu was forced to pass the baton of his researching brains from dead NFL players to the University of Boston's Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuropathologist. Surprisingly, the NFL even contributed financially to the research.
A former college football player and professional wrestler, Chris Nowinksi was hired by Boston University to be the brain collector, soliciting families of deceased NFL players, some of whom were extremely well known, and eventually even high school players to contribute their brains for Dr. McKee's research.
Instead of a Nigerian doctor's detachment and ignorance of the game of football, Dr. McKee loved the game. She grew up in a family of two brothers and a father who played the game. But she's a true scientist. In other words, not for sale. At a recent congressional panel, Dr. McKee stated:
"I unequivocally think there's a link between playing football and CTE," McKee said. "We've seen it in 90 out of 94 NFL players whose brains we've examined, we've found it in 45 out of 55 college players and six out of 26 high school players. … I've been able to accumulate this number of cases in football players, it cannot be rare. In fact, I think we are going to be surprised at how common it is [among football players]."
It appears that the NFL (National Football League) has finally conceded to the evidence and admits there is a connection to football and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encilopathy). During a recent congressional panel discussion where both Dr. Ann McKee and an NFL official, Jeff Miller, were in attendance. The discussion was hosted by Illinois representative Jan Schakowsky, who was on to the NFL's denial.
"The NFL is peddling a false sense of security," Schakowsky said. "Football is a high-risk sport because of the routine hits, not just diagnosable concussions. What the American public need now is honesty about the health risks and clearly more research." (Emphasis added)
She demanded a yes or no answer from Jeff Miller to CTE as a risk from from playing football. He said yes with a minor qualifying statement. Shortly afterward, the NFL released this statement: "The comments made by Jeff Miller yesterday accurately reflect the view of the NFL."
The over decade old NFL denial is over. Now what?
About the Author:
Paul Fassa started looking into natural health to overcome his unhealthy lifestyle. Then he developed more interest as he researched his articles for Natural News and Align Life.
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