Sinclair: CTE is too important to ignore

Columnist+Peyton+Hamel+believes+neuroplasticity%2C+a+phenomenon+that+allows+one+to+control+their+reality%2C+is+a+powerful+tool+to+help+our+brains+adapt+to+a+mindset+of+achievement.

Columnist Peyton Hamel believes neuroplasticity, a phenomenon that allows one to control their reality, is a powerful tool to help our brains adapt to a mindset of achievement.

Isaac Sinclair

The NFL season kicked off a few weeks ago, and as I’ve been watching the games, I’ve found myself having a harder time enjoying football.

My outlook toward football began to change after hearing about the results of a study published in the medical journal JAMA over the summer. It found cases of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, in 99 percent of deceased NFL players.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive brain trauma. Symptoms include memory loss, depression, mood swings, impaired judgement and paranoia.

This is an issue the NFL cannot escape. The reality is that every time a player puts his helmet on for a game, they are potentially inflicting irreversible brain damage onto themselves.

Even after the results of this study, there will be many more years of football. Football has been, and will continue to be, a staple of American sports. One of the primary reason being profits. In 2016, the NFL made $13.3 billion dollars, and the average NFL player makes $1.9 million dollars. There’s simply too much money and popularity being poured into football.

For young athletes wanting to play football professionally, I don’t recommend it. I’ve heard arguments that football is the best route for impoverished children to get out of poverty and I’m here to say that this simply isn’t true.

Besides the almost guaranteed head trauma that comes with playing football, NFL players have the lowest salary out of the the four major American sports. I am willing to bet that a professional athlete at the level of an NFL player can also play at least one other sport well. Playing basketball, baseball or hockey is a very real option for kids looking to play professional sports. And a more lucrative one as well.

So, how does the NFL fix this?

First, there needs to be less youth football. CTE only gets worse with head injuries impacts starting before age 12, and children shouldn’t be put into a sport that will impair their mental health at such a young age.

Second, helmets need do a better job at protecting players. Helmets aren’t perfect, and many companies like Riddell, Schutt and Vicis are working on improving them. You can read more about their specific changes here.

After learning all of this, I have a harder time watching football games. They are still fun, and I do love watching the Vikings try to win, but it’s hard to fully enjoy the sport when you know that nearly everyone on that field is walking away from the game with head trauma. And the argument that they are making millions of dollars somehow negates the fact that their mental capacities will be diminished is disgusting. They are still human beings who deserve to have their health, millionaires or not.

CTE is a problem that is not going away, and I foresee it causing monumental problems for the NFL brand going forward. Football will struggle while other sports overtake it in popularity and success.

But football will survive, so we must make sure that it is as safe as it can be going forward. We must ensure that children have the chance to develop healthy minds and that players go into each game as protected as they can be. CTE isn’t just another issue for the NFL: it’s the issue.