Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Super Bowl players are gladiators -- to the death

The New York Times reports medical findings released today showing boxer-type brain injury to the sixth deceased NFL player 50 or younger autopsied specifically for such findings.

That means the players you'll be watching in Sunday's Super Bowl truly are gladiators -- entertaining us to their eventual early deaths. The NFL would not comment today on the findings.

It has been quite slow in recognizing the early deaths and permanent, debilitating disabilities to its players. The late Gene Upshaw with the players association also participated in the denial.

Here is what The Times reports:

TAMPA, Fla. — Brain damage commonly associated with boxers has been found in a sixth deceased former N.F.L. player age 50 or younger, further stoking the debate between many doctors and the league over the significance of such findings.

Doctors at Boston University’s School of Medicine found a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brain of Tom McHale, an N.F.L. lineman from 1987 to 1995 who died in May at age 45. Known as C.T.E., the progressive condition results from repetitive head trauma and can bring on dementia in someone in their 40s or 50s.

Using techniques that can be administered only after a patient has died, doctors have now identified C.T.E. in all six N.F.L. veterans between the ages of 36 and 50 who have been tested for the condition, further evidencing the dangers of improperly treated brain trauma in football.

“It’s scary — it’s horribly frightening,” said Randy Grimes, who played center next to McHale on the Buccaneers for several years. “I’ve had my share of concussions, too. More than my share. My wife says I have short-term memory loss. It’s really scary to think of what might be going on up there.”

The McHale case was announced Tuesday afternoon at a news conference in Tampa — where McHale had lived and where the Super Bowl will take place on Sunday — held by Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

“This is a medically significant finding,” said Dr. Daniel P. Perl, the director of neuropathology at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who is not affiliated with the Boston University group. “I think with a sixth case identified, out of six, for a condition that is incredibly rare in the general population, there is more than enough evidence that football is clearly strongly related to the presence of this pathology.”

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