The saying “truth is stranger than fiction” means that the reality of some situations is harder to believe than what is imagined. To the NFL, an idiom has never held so much weight.
In 2002, Dr. Bennet Omalu began to publicize the correlation between serious head trauma and playing football. Omalu’s autopsy on player Mike Webster, who played center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, revealed CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Webster suffered dementia, depression, and amnesia from damage to his frontal lobe as a result of playing football. His investigation and eventual conclusion that CTE can be caused by football led to a battle between the NFL and Dr. Omalu, and raised the question of whether or not we should be endorsing football at all.
CTE is found in people who have suffered excessive brain trauma, and it can lead to dementia, depression, memory loss, and tremors. American football is a sport that rests largely on contact and is far from gentle. Of ninety-one deceased NFL players examined by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University, eighty-seven were found to have CTE in post-mortem examinations. Doing the math, about 96 percent have had CTE. Out of all the risky jobs that can be pursued, it is surprising that a great American pastime is one of them.
When the NFL finally chose to acknowledge the connection between CTE and football, they reduced the amount of contact practices in the hopes that injuries would be minimized. While this is a great effort, it does not do anything for the high school or college level football players sustaining injuries that their bodies do not fully feel the effect of yet. The lives of football players are continually cut short as a result of CTE, and not enough precautions are taken for it. Football is a tradition and a favorite pastime; we should not stop youth from playing it. We should, however, increase safety measures instead of shying away from talking about the presence of CTE in football.