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Friday, October 2, 2009

Violent hits take their toll

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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?

Comments

bradh 10 years, 3 months ago

I don't understand why you feel the NFL should be taking care of these players. You mention the players have made the NFL and their minions (owners?) millions and so somehow they should be paying for the players medical bills. Last I checked, all of the players mentioned also made tens of millions and I would think they could spend thousands to get the best health care insurance available. The ones I feel sorry for are the players in the trenches who are playing for league minimums. While they can still easily afford the best health insurance it becomes a much larger portion of their earnings. Sounds like the player's union should create and fund a health care plan.

Jonathan Allison 10 years, 3 months ago

Players now make a lot more money than players 30 or 40 years ago did. It's those guys who need the medical. They may not have made tens of millions of dollars, but they got their heads mashed just the same... maybe even worse. Now they're suffering the consequences and struggling to get the help they need. Basketball is the same way. George Mikan couldn't get anything from the NBA and he suffered long and painfully because of it.

KUbsee69 10 years, 3 months ago

New York Times ??? How about the New England Journal of Medicine or the reviews from the Harvard School of Medicine. Have they reported or confirmed the results of this study?

Jaydocs ... any comments?

Rick Arnoldy 10 years, 3 months ago

It's not recent NFL players he's talking about. Joe Namath's contract for $100k per year was considered outrageous. In 1970, the league minimum was $9,000 for rookies and $10,000 for veterans.

Tim Orel 10 years, 3 months ago

Also, players can't qualify for insurance. Because they played that sport, any and all effects are considered pre-existing conditions, which would make them excluded IF they even could get insurance in the first place. The NFL has to self-insure these athletes because no outside insurance will.

BCRavenJHawkfan 10 years, 3 months ago

I certainly don't intend to make light of this situation but all I have in my mind is the Gilda Radner skit from SNL confusing violins with violence.

Sorry.

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