Archive for Friday, October 2, 2009

Violent hits take their toll

October 2, 2009


So far, Kansas’s Todd Reesing, Texas’s Colt McCoy and other Big 12 quarterback compatriots don’t appear to have much cause for concern. Florida’s Tim Tebow does, along with countless former professional football players, in particular high-profile QBs such as Troy Aikman, Trent Green and Steve Young.

The subject is Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related ailments which threaten athletes in super-concussive activities such as football. The danger is that their injurious careers could hasten the onslaught of The Long Goodbye.

Aikman of Dallas, Green of Kansas City-St. Louis, and three other teams, and Young of San Francisco fame retired earlier than they preferred due to repeated serious blows to the head. Concussions, the media was told. Collegian Tebow was mangled in a sickening manner the past weekend and there was cause to wonder if his neck had been broken. The Heisman Trophy-holder seems to be recovering amazingly well and may get back into action soon. Yet he should be scrutinized intensively.

The National Football League commissioned a new study that determined that pro football players suffer from Alzheimer’s and all dementia-linked troubles far more frequently than the rest of us. This is highly significant; it is the first admission by the NFL that footballers are particularly vulnerable to the Dirty A and its nasty disabling relatives.

The study, first reported by the New York Times, found that 6.1 percent of retired NFL players 50 and older reported they had received dementia-related diagnoses. That is five times higher than the registered national average of 1.2 percent. Former players like Mike Ditka for years have tried to get across that vets need more medical, mental and financial help in later years. The NFL has the wherewithal to give it. The league, up to now, has stubbornly denied “the game” caused all this and that far more pension support is needed.

Former players along with the current ones have provided owners, the league and their minions with millions of dollars and deserve a far better benefit plan. The present one is terribly flawed and, as Ditka and Co. insist, needs a major overhaul. Perhaps this study, sponsored by the NFL itself, with more than 1,000 players taking part, will finally break the logjam.

Meanwhile, NFL guys like Aikman and Co. and injured collegians such as Tebow have reason to be glancing over their shoulders to see if they’ll find the Dementia Dragon stalking them for a premature sting.

One of the ultimate examples of what incessant beating to the brain region can do is boxing icon Muhammad Ali. With the battering hastening his entry into the horrid realm of Parkinson’s disease, he can barely speak, can hardly walk without aid and his hands constantly tremble and shake.

Remember when he had such fabulous foot speed he floated like a butterfly so he could sting like a bee? Boxing defenders say their sport didn’t bring this on, that Ali would have gone down this long and lonely road “naturally.”

Wanna buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

You shudder when soccer players perform their bangup headers; when youngsters like Tim Tebow get crashed and mashed. Do they and the Aikman-types court eventual disaster? Helmets prevent fractures; brains still flop around in that fluid, sometimes at great harm.

The older our population gets the more we’ll see the impact of the dementia plague. Will increasingly violent sports hasten the nefarious embrace of that menace for victims of heavy and repeated concussions?


Joe Hyde 8 years, 5 months ago

Former KU and later 2-time NFL Pro Bowl running back Delvin Williams, who at the time was playing for the Miami Dolphins, was once asked during an interview if his body hurt really bad after each game.

His answer was revealing. It wasn't after a game ended that his body began hurting. His whole body, Williams admitted, was in serious pain after each TACKLE.

You wonder how in the world these guys can stand the punishment they absorb during football games. The physical damage to legs, arms, ankles, fingers, neck and back are bad enough. Throw in the occasional head injuries and you begin to ask why anyone would want to play the game at all. Well, because it's fun and exciting when you're healthy enough to do it.

Anyone who has ever boxed in the ring, or suited up to play football, is a brave person in my book. But football players whose positions chronically expose them to unexpected side impact blows to the head (quarterback, running backs, receivers)...those guys take raw bravery to a whole different level.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 5 months ago

Pfft, what about MLS players who on average make $27,000. They don't even make enough money to cover minor costs themselves and soccer is way more dangerous than football. Anyone who believes otherwise has obviously never played it competitively.

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