I became a believer today.
Not in the potential of a draftee. Not in the justice system of Roger Goodell. Not even in the beauty of the game of football.
No…I became a believer in the sheer power of head trauma in the NFL. I became a believer in the bad side of the NFL, for maybe the first time in my life.
I’ve always been a fan of hard-hitting football. I love the sound of pads crunching, the helmets scratching against each other, and the cleats taking off across the grass, the shoes of a predator hunting its prey. All these sounds were simply my senses demonstrating how tough of a game football actually is.
With the death of Junior Seau today, everything changed. Whether or not his death by apparent suicide can be linked definitively to a deteriorating mental state caused by head trauma from his days in the NFL remains to be seen. But nobody can deny that it is a possibility, and a strong one at that.
Seau’s tragic death is the second such death in less than a month – former Falcon Ray Easterling filed suit against the NFL because of the concussions he suffered during his playing years, and then committed suicide shortly afterwards. Dave Duerson, a former Bear, shot himself in the chest – the same place where Seau was shot – and wrote in his suicide note that he did so to preserve his brain for researchers to study.
Duerson was later diagnosed, postmortem, with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative condition discovered by Boston College researchers, and a disease that several former NFL players have been diagnosed with. One of the symptoms is depression and loss of impulse control, two symptoms that could obviously lead to suicide. Several former football players have committed suicide, and many family members and football officials have decried the players’ traumatic head injuries during their careers as possible reason for their degenerative and/or unstable condition at the end of their lives.
Junior Seau is the latest in such mysterious cases. Nothing is surefire fact right now – Seau’s death is being investigated
as a suicide right now, but has not officially been ruled one. Even if it officially becomes a suicide, it cannot be sure yet that Seau’s mental condition had anything to do with his playing career. However, the coincidences are hard to avoid much longer, and it’s time for the NFL to start taking the concussions situation seriously.
Is the game of football as we know it about to change? Maybe, maybe not. It might just be time, though. That thought would only be intensified if Seau’s death is later connected to the concussions he suffered as a player.
Like I said, I’ve always been for
hard-nosed and old-school football. But Seau’s death has changed that perspective for me entirely. His suicide (if it is, in fact, ruled a suicide as suspected) made a believer out of me, whether I want to be one or not. Is the NFL next when it comes to believing in the connection between concussions and former players’ medical conditions later in life?
We, as fans, as well as all the former players suffering from the after-effects of head trauma, can only hope so.