Brain trauma threat requires rethinking football

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Terry Bradshaw's sports commentaries are always enthusiastic and entertaining, but his revelation Monday that he accumulated disabling brain damage over the course of his football career is no laughing matter -- as well as no surprise.

And it's not just football. Major League Baseball recently created a separate disabled list for concussions, and sports of all types and levels are taking notice of this type of traumatic brain injury.

And a Frontline documentary on PBS indicated that the problem doesn't start in the pros. It cited autopsies of the brains of football players as young as college which showed the effects of long-term damage -- even among players who had never officially been diagnosed with a concussion.

Studies of players exposed only to the repetitive jarring of normal play and practice seemed to indicate a steady decline in cognitive performance.

Yes, football helmets are far and away more effective than they were in years past, but they cannot protect from the repetitive damage that was the subject of the studies.

The program concluded that the increasing size and speed of high school players, coupled with pressure to perform for national recognition, can be blamed for the injuries.

Football is a bright spot in society, offering young men an opportunity to be rewarded for hard work, dedication and talent. It's certainly a positive alternative to risky behavior in which many might otherwise be involved.

But unless ways can be found to reduce the possibility of traumatic brain injuries, the entire way the sport is played is due for re-evaluation.

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