Column: CTE research forces parents to think twice about football

'Raising Prescott'

Humanity evolves every second of every day of every year we’re on this planet, constantly breaking barriers of old truths and advancing toward newly discovered paths using the knowledge gained by those who came before.

It’s a painful process, but a necessary one.

Darwin said, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is defined as a degenerative disease found in people who have suffered repeated blows to the head.

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist from the CTE Center at Boston University, recently examined the brains of 202 deceased football players and published her findings in The Journal of the American Medical Association in July.

Of the 202 brains researched by McKee, 111 played in the NFL -- and 110 of those were found to have CTE. Of the 53 former college football players, 48 tested positive; and three of 14 former high school football players were positive, too.

What does that mean?

Well, for starters, it’s possible that one in five youngsters barely halfway through their teenage years who play a contact sport such as football may be susceptible to CTE later in life.

Terrell Davis at his recent Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this past weekend said, “I can’t lie, we’re all scared” when asked about CTE implications.

Now please keep in mind, the scientific community’s research is only in beginning stages, but it certainly paints a picture.

The study done by McKee was completed with brains submitted by families who saw a myriad of symptoms in their loved ones such as memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. It doesn’t include every former football player’s brain from the beginning of time.

Still, sports parents in this country and around the globe are certainly thinking twice about allowing their young children to play football.

So the biggest question I know you’re all wondering is: Would I allow my kids to play football? The answer: YES.

Why? I think the “age” of the player is the more important factor than the game itself. Would I let an 8-year-old play tackle football? With what I know now? The likely answer is no. But what about when my kids reach high school and show interest? I think I’d be more likely to say yes.

Remember, the study points out “repeated blows to the head.” A young player will receive far less contact playing later in their youth, rather than earlier.

So what’s great about this study? No longer can the “suck it up” mantra exist in our world of athletics, especially football. I grew up with it, and many of

you reading this right now probably did too. We now know, “sucking it up” is a dangerous philosophy when it comes to head injury.

Luckily, the athletic community is paying more and more attention to head injuries and concussions, and although leagues around the world have made appropriate steps to address the issue, everyone still has a long way to go.

Will this CTE business change the way football is viewed and played in our country?

Maybe.

Can coaches and teams take a smarter approach to practice and games for the sake of the overall health of players individually?

Absolutely.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is associate sports editor and a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him at bbergner@prescottaz.com or 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.