America’s Team: Dallas Cowboys Star Has CTE

If you grew up in the 1970s, you knew a family member or friends who loved the Cowboys, with Roger Staubach as the quarterback and Tony Dorsett as the key running back. Both were Hall-of-Famers and legends in the NFL. Before that the running back played for the University of Pittsburgh and won the Heisman Trophy in 1976.

The latest report is that Dorsett has the problem that has plagued many veteran football players and some younger football players as well: chronic encephalopathy. Dorsettt figured in among the veteran players who sued the NFL and won the court settlement without the NFL admitting any responsibility to the players for injuries. (One of the principal terms of the settlement is that the agreement “cannot be considered an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by football.”)

As noted in a Sports Illustrated article, former NFL players union president Kevin Mawae that Thursday’s concussion litigation settlement was an even-handed resolution to the most contentious and significant issue facing the sport as the NFL’s 2013 regular season looms. Mawae, a retired 16-year NFL veteran and two-term NFLPA president, said only the ex-players in the most dire need of financial and medical assistance truly won a victory with Thursday’s announcement of a $765 million mediated settlement. “I think the league won big on this, because the players settled for a pittance,” Mawae told SI.com, on the phone from his home near Baton Rouge, La. “It’s a relative drop in the bucket. I’m not going to say the players caved, because it would do an injustice to the older men who really need the help now, but at some point in time, the collective body of players, retired and active, have got to be willing to go all the way to the wall with this issue. But the settlement is a setback for players in the long run, Mawae said, because it keeps the NFL from having to release information in court about what it knew in regards to the connection between brain injuries and football, and when it knew it. And that opportunity lost represents a discovery process that can’t have a dollar value placed upon it. “Because in the end, settling it for however much money is a whole lot better for the league than giving up everything they have as far as information and potentially harming the shield for good. There’s too much potential for information that could have done damage to the NFL, and it’s better to just pay it off with $765 million, plus court costs.”

According to the settlement, $675 million of the $765 million would be used to compensate former players and families of deceased players who have suffered cognitive injury, including the families of players who committed suicide after suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Other money will be used for baseline medical exams, the cost of which will be capped at $75 million. The NFL also will fund research and education at a cost of $10 million.

That $10 million is wisely spent. If the league can continue to spend the money for research into the issue then it can claim that the link between football and concussions has not been resolved. In order to continue this research effort, they convinced the family of star linebacker Junior Seau to send his brain for testing to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which the NFL gave $1 million  to become the brain research center. But wait, wasn’t there already a research center on brain concussions that the NFL sponsored? Why didn’t they receive Seau’s brain. There was, the Boston University’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The Center notes on its website: recent reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE in retired professional football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.  These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.  The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia. Might be a problem for the NFL. Better stop working with that group and direct football player’s brains to another location. So what will happen to Dorsett?

 

 

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