September 19th, 2017 at 12:55 PM ^

i played hockey up to an including at our favorite school, then played football until 41.  oldest brother played ball at northwestern.   we are both fine.  

i note in particular this doctor says it can be linked to opiod useage. i have opined for years, and having known and socialized with some pro ball players, they live some pretty hard-drinking, hard-partying lives.  throw in steroid usage with that.

i love the fact that folks are being careful about concussions.  i hate that it is happening unfairly and in some cases, hysterically.   sounds like some political issues which shall remain unspoken....


September 19th, 2017 at 1:14 PM ^

What exactly does this prove?  There are people that smoke their whole lives and are "fine".  That doesn't change a damn thing about the dangers of smoking cigarettes.  

One or two personel anecdotes does not equal a scientific study.  


September 19th, 2017 at 2:58 PM ^

but digging a bit deeper, my post has more to it.  first, two guys who played a lot of contact sports, now in their 50's and 60's respectively showing no signs.  

second and more important is the introduction in the pro ranks in particular of significant and sometimes hard-core drug useage:  cocaine, meth, marijuana, booze and of course the article mentions a possible opioid connection - and they give (or used to) those out like M & M's at halloween. 

next signifcant variable: PED's.  that era in particular was into the juice and growth hormone like no other.  IIRC you are a resident.  tell me what those would do in long-term and high dosages?  what about in combo with all the other drugs?  any worries about that? 

and don't skip past where i say its a good thing to be looking into consussions.  the point is to be calm and rational about it, neither denial nor hysterical.  

lastly, if you don't think people with an agenda can't cook up statistics or studies to support just about any proposition known, then i have a bridge i'd like to sell you. 



September 19th, 2017 at 5:18 PM ^

the bigger man wouldn't have responded at all and "shrugged it off" as you suggested.

First, a double down on your anecdote. n=2 is not relevant to anything.

Second, I simply don't know if there is any correlation between tau depositions in the brain and drug use or PED use. Given the issue is about CTE, this would be the only real confounder possible. I've never seen any link between marijuana or steroids, but wouldn't be surprised if meth could contribute. However, doubt meth use is that widespread in NFL circles, especially relative to marijuana and steroids.

Third, I took offense because I don't see that much relative hysteria and am sensitive given your previous rants on the libruh media. It just seems like you take the attack on youth football personally given your own decisions.

Fourth, the idea that the research centers putting out these papers have an agenda against the NFL is typical anti-science bs that threatens to make my eyes roll out of their sockets.



September 19th, 2017 at 8:43 PM ^

and i'm sure in actual physical proximity you wouldn't embarrass yourself as much as you did today.  wonder of the internet, you would be ashamed if the docs and nurses read your unprovoked snark.   and of course depending on who you were talking to in person you would never have the guts to pop off like that.  you owe an apology and that'll be fine.  that's what i meant by 'shrug it off'.  you were (are) having a bad day and someone was being gracious to you.  you missed it as bad as speight is missing in the red zone.  

also, i don't believe i've ever used any version of the insult you sent my way, 'libruh media'.  maybe you have me confused with someone else.  either way, your lack of self control and desire to strike at others is really a shame.  hope it gets better for you. 


September 20th, 2017 at 5:50 AM ^

b.  re: internet fighting - i think that is a shared trait with a few hundred million of us so don't feel like you're the only one.  i try to avoid it, but of course don't always stick to that mantra.

c.  not sure what a 'zero' day is, but have a big 'plus' day, get some exercise, kick it great at work and at home.  the rest will sort itself out. 



September 19th, 2017 at 3:38 PM ^


I am glad there's a debate, and I'm glad this guy has called out the media sensationalism over this issue, which undoubtedly exists. 

That said, this article literally adds nothing to our knowledge about CTE specifically. Worst yet, it is a kind of "reverse-sensationalism." The title of the article could be deemed every bit as misleading as the "99% of football players get CTE" headlines from a few weeks ago. How many parents will see this headline:

"I'm a brain scientist and I let my son play football"

and make equally uninformed conclusions as those who now think football is sure to lead to CTE?  


September 19th, 2017 at 4:31 PM ^

It's like being a pulmonologist and saying you smoke.  Some of them do.  Good for them.  It's their right and they're willing to take the risk, but it doesn't change the fact that smoking increases your risk for certain health issues.

The only study that this guy actually cites to make his point is a terrible study.  There is no reason to expect a tiny sample like pro football players who play at least 5 years to remotely come close to the suicide rate of the general population.  Stable professionals (of any kind) are going to have much higher income and lower levels of mental and physical health issues which are all major risk factors for suicide.  Also, they're not military veterans who, if included in the general population, bring up suicide rates a lot (unfortunately).

I completely agree with others that people with an agenda can cherry pick the numbers and studies they want.  Which means the NFL and the huge business that is football can easily do this too (like the article this guys links).

In my mind, they have far more incentive to discredit any negative studies than anyone with a so-called anti-football agenda.  Who would that even be?  Soccer leagues?  Is it a conspiracy by brain doctors to get grants for more research?

Also, the media is going to sensationalize things to no end.  100 percent agree with that.  They need clicks and shares and people click on and share articles that make things sounds hysterical.  That's just the result we have to live with by having for-profit media (a tradeoff more than worth making, but also means people need to be critical of what they read).


September 19th, 2017 at 12:59 PM ^

... That media does a piss poor job of explaining scientific research findings and the scientific process, in general. At same time, not going to take the word of one Dr who has concluded its safe for his children. Doctors, like scientists, are fallible. Basically, there isn't scientific consensus. Make your choices for your own family based on as much information you can gather, your understanding of the risk, and your willingness to take that risk.


September 19th, 2017 at 1:20 PM ^

there is no clear evidence linking CTE to football. The main reason is that doing the kind of research study needed to establish clear evidence is supremely difficult.

Now, is the most logical conclusion from this that there is actually no link between football and CTE, or that we may never be able to fully understand the link, but one probably exists because people are bashing their heads into each other?

I don't think the author makes a great argument one way or the other.


September 19th, 2017 at 2:31 PM ^

He does a very good job pointing out that we know next to nothing about any possible causal relationship between football, CTE, and the effects that it might cause.  That is to say that we know about the same in regards to CTE vis a vie football as we did before everyone decided "CTE" was a huge problem vis a vie football. 

You are definitely free to believe that a sport that involves knocking a helmeted head into another helmeted head should cause an increase in lasting neurocognitive issues relative to the general population. However, you have basically the same amount of evidence supporting your belief as the guy who thinks you're wrong. That amount is zero. In science, disproving hypothesis is how we advance knowledge. Proposing an alternative hypothesis is not necessary to disprove one that has been proposed. I look forward to continuing research on the topic and honest discussion of that research.


September 19th, 2017 at 2:43 PM ^

sometimes the intuitive answer is the actual one. do we really need to pour millions of dollars of research funds (when they're already being spread so thin these days) into answering the question of whether or not hitting your head against another person's head is a bad idea?


September 19th, 2017 at 4:52 PM ^

Well, if you want to base decisions on science and not on "it seems like", I guess we ought to do the studies. And we ought to be really careful interpreting the research.
If you've been around for a while you've seen certain foods go from "good" to "bad" to "good" again, all supported by scientific studies and communicated via mass media and documentaries. The outcry regarding the danger of football seems only somewhat tied to the science, yet some act as if it's case closed when it's clearly not. I think a prudent person recognizes the hype and tries to understand the counter-argument, not just accepting the dominant opinon.


September 19th, 2017 at 9:13 PM ^

my interest and proponence for football=concussion=CTE camp...but I have to say a very valid SCIENTIFIC POINT was made by x-Melanin...When the CTE barn doors opened, a majority of the finger pointing centered in Pittsburgh with many of the legendary greats from that team/era. At that time, PED was pretty rampant, as was likely drug/alcohol use. To say CTE is a direct correlation to football and impact is somewhat lazy at this point. Just because you can prove or identify football players with CTE at this point and suicide rate, there are still a LOT of variables to take into consideration.

TRUE science proves beyond doubt, not just in a stat column that all variables excluded, the study can be reproduced without fail and verify the hypothesis. At this point, I guarantee there are many many players and athletes, from that era who do not suffer depression, CTE damaging symptoms, etc...why? Why do some athletes turn to suicide, show the Tau protien issues, while others do not? If it was TRULY unquestionably football and impact, wouldn't it seem more reasonable that nearly all, at least half? At MINIMUM on fourth of NFL players across time have CTE and commit suicide? Wouldn't Hockey, Boxing, and other head trauma sports show the same progression of CTE/suicide? If apples are apples...what's missing? Doping certainly wasn't as prevelant in hockey, wasn't as prevelant in boxing...which also tends to lean away from recreational drug usage in that regard, knowing both likely occured in afforementioned sports.

I guess the bottom line, myself, Xtra Melanin, MANY others played football for a lot of years, took many shots to the head, and to the best of my assessments, many of us do not have CTE nor depression/suicidal thoughts as a result. Painting football=CTE=suicide is a pretty broad perspective and seems very unscientific honestly.

uncle leo

September 19th, 2017 at 2:57 PM ^

Does it really take a lot of scientists to prove that people who are good athletes smashing into each other over and over again is going to cause some form of damage?

Are we to then just ignore the surprising surge in retired players taking their own lives, forgetting where they parked at the age of 45, not remembering what they ate for breakfast, struggling to walk without thinking about it? Is that all just random coincedence?

There's just too much evidence from people that actually played the game. 


September 19th, 2017 at 1:11 PM ^

Good read, also the links.   His first few points are basically "it's not conclusive, the science isnt all in yet"  Which... yea, obviously.  

But he actually does reference some interesting and recent studies that show some contrary evidence.



September 19th, 2017 at 1:35 PM ^

have been almost daily articles written about CTE for the last 10 years, and my take on football related brain injury has not changed.  Lots of people play football on many different levels.  Of those people who play football, most will never have any impairment due to playing football.  The longer a person plays football, the higher the chance that person will develop CTE or something akin to it.  Even then, most people who play the sport for a long time will not develop any notable impairment from a brain abnormality.

I understand the concern for professional football players who play contact football for nearly every day for 20 years.  The concern is at least real at that point.  But for parents that won't allow their kids to play junior or middle school football?  Even high school. 

If my son wants to play football my primary concern would be some kind of fluke spinal cord injury, not developing CTE from three or four years of tackle football.

turd ferguson

September 19th, 2017 at 2:46 PM ^

Interesting... I basically agree with your entire first paragraph but interpret/apply it in almost exactly the opposite way.  

At this point I'm convinced that there are real risks from playing through college and into the NFL, but those strike me as the type and level of risks that reasonable adults might choose to accept.  We let people consent to all kinds of risky behaviors.  That's a good thing, in my opinion, and I could easily see an adult thinking through the costs and benefits and deciding, reasonably, that the benefits of playing outweigh the costs.  

For kids, I'm sure it's true that the risks aren't as severe if they stop playing before college, but (a) there are still legitimate concerns about young brains banging around and (b) a 10-year-old can't process the long-term costs and benefits of playing football like a 20-year-old can.  It's hard for me to watch kids playing tackle football without thinking that they, themselves, might hit adulthood and wish they (or their parents) hadn't done that.

So for me, I don't have a lot of guilt watching college or pro football, since I think those guys basically know the risks at this point.  At the same time, I would like to see youth football hold off on tackling/contact longer than it does (and wouldn't let my kids play until or unless I thought they could process the risks themselves and make an informed decision).


September 19th, 2017 at 3:03 PM ^

understand what you are saying, but contact is part of the sport.  Flag football is not football, and there is no way that kids are going to be able to decide for themselves whether they want to continue to play it if they don't experience the contact at some point.  Perhaps not in elementary school level football (but I think most junior leagues at that age are already flag), but at least by middle school. 

I went to a Clarkston JV football game last week.  Football at that level is a contact sport, yes, but there was only one hit during the entire game with any visceral impact on the players involved or the spectators and it wasn't anywhere near the head.  Half of those damn players probably won't even go on to play Varsity football.  They are participating in an extra-curricular activity for a couple of years, that is all.  They are getting in good shape, having some structure imposed, and getting the attention of that girl in homeroom. That's all.

And for all the talk of CTE and dangers, football is a game of virtue as well.  If you don't do your job, somebody else (usually somebody you know and care about) takes a toll.  If lose control of yourself and pick yourself over team, your team is penalized for it.  Discipline is as important as skill.  These are important lessons.  Can they be learned in other ways?  Sure, but football does teach them.

To me, it is just revisionist for youth and high school football to be looked at as these big bad dangers.  How many people on your high school football team went pro?  I'm guessing not that many.  How many of them are stricken with the perils of life long impairment of CTE.  Once again, I'm guessing not many.

To quote Bad News Bears - Breaking Training -  Let the kids play.



September 19th, 2017 at 1:48 PM ^

no need to play before Freshman year of HS and the science agrees with him.

New study from BU released today is also very telling of tackle football long term effects on brain development before age 12.

The Mad Hatter

September 19th, 2017 at 1:53 PM ^

And with a 5-year-old son who's over 4ft tall and 65lbs already, I'll probably have to come to a decision sooner rather than later.

I think I'm leaning towards no tackle football before middle school at the earliest.  There's just too many unknowns about how repeated hits to a still developing brain will affect him in the long run.  Maybe he won't get CTE, but maybe he'll turn into an asshole or a psychopath?