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9 Football Players Killed By Brain Trauma

9 Football Players Killed By Brain Trauma
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Gridiron football has never been more popular. Unquestionably the most popular sport in the United States, professional football is a ten billion dollar a year industry, and high-level college football brings in billions more. The sport is at the top of its game, and with Super Bowl XLVII coming up on Sunday, it’s easy to think that football can only continue to get more popular.

Behind the scenes, though, there is increasing concern that football could be in trouble. The sport is violent by its very nature, and that has long been understood to lead to long-term physical damage. Increasingly, however, it’s becoming apparent that there is a far worse trauma being inflicted on players — serious, irreversible, devastating traumatic brain injuries.

Until very recently, players routinely returned to games with concussions, so long as they were physically able to play – literally risking imminent death. While the NFL has taken steps over the last six years to try to prevent that, even one concussion can have serious, lifetime effects. Even if players fully recover from a concussion, they are still at risk of severe damage should they sustain another one — and that is always a danger for players in a sport where violent hitting is not just expected, but encouraged.

After players leave the game, many suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The incurable, degenerative disease has a number of pernicious effects, including depression, memory loss, and difficulty controlling emotion. Repeated concussions damage the brain’s executive function — the part of our mind responsible for rationality and goal-oriented behavior.

Needless to say, being emotionally unstable, unable to plan for the future and incapable of remembering things is a hard and painful way to live, and sadly, many are simply unable to bear up under the strain. A recent spate of suicides among former football players have been linked to CTE. Other former NFL players have sued the league for covering up what it knew about damage caused by concussions.

That may just be the tip of the iceberg: at the college and high school level, concussion protocols are less rigorous and lightly-enforced, and a high school football player who suffers multiple concussions is no less in danger of lifetime problems than a pro who does.

So as gridiron football prepares for the highlight of the year, the 47th Super Bowl, it’s worth remembering some of the men who literally gave everything they had to the game, including their memories, their stability and ultimately, their lives.

9. Nathan Stiles

Nathan Stiles isn’t a household name. He wasn’t a pro. He wasn’t even a college player. Stiles died in 2010 at age 17, collapsing at halftime of a game during his senior season in high school. He had suffered a concussion earlier in the season, and sat out for three weeks following it, but he wasn’t fully healed. He ultimately died of a brain hemorrhage — while he’d been cleared to play, he was not fully healed. Like many players, he tried to hide the pain, so he could get back on the field for his final game. (He admitted to his girlfriend that he was dizzy the day before the game, but told neither his parents nor coaches.)  A hit in that final game caused bleeding on the brain. An autopsy of his brain done by Boston University showed Stiles was already suffering from early signs of CTE.

8. Mike Borich

Mike Borich died at 42, committing suicide after overdosing on medication. The former college wide receiver had suffered from depression and out-of-control behavior. Borich played football in the 1980s, before the effects of concussions were widely known. His father says he may have suffered from nine or ten over his career. A post-mortem autopsy showed Borich was afflicted with CTE.

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84 comments

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11:24AM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

12:14AM PST on Feb 6, 2013

This country has an interest in some of the dumbest, most dangerous sports. Common sense tells you that if there is a HIGH risk of injury, you should probably avoid doing it.

9:35AM PST on Feb 5, 2013

Risk is inherent to living. We cannot and should not over protect. Football player have been dying since the game was invented. There are new treatments in the horizon. The military has been working on a allied track to prevent brain damage from IED's. Getting all those parties together is going to be the key.

4:31PM PST on Feb 4, 2013

It is sad that the U.S. is so obsessed with foot ball that we would rather players suffer from repeated concussions just so they can keep playing!

1:23PM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Pretty br00tal sport.

7:58AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Thanks........

6:28AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

6:04AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Thanks Jeff for the article. I just never understood why people would want to participate in contact sports considering the dangers involved.

8:05PM PST on Feb 3, 2013

@ Connie T lol!

11:00AM PST on Feb 3, 2013

All sports activity involves risks as does just living ones life. It's the risk one takes if they want to partake in the sports or partake in life! I nearly died from falling off a ladder cleaning the guttering out on our house. Be born and stay locked up in a little padded room and die from dementia!

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