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Leading NFL and Olympics broadcaster and commentator Bob Costas has declared the obvious: that – barring the development of a cure for the brain disease that can be caused by playing football – the National Football League is doomed.
“The reality,” he said, “is that this game destroys people’s brains.”
Costas, one of the most awarded sports personalities in history, said this and more [image above] at a recent sports symposium.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy [CTE] is an incurable brain disease which is caused by repeated shock to the brain, including but not limited to concussions.
This means, as Costas’ statement correctly implies, that there is no helmet or tackling technique that can eliminate the risk.
Violence, and therefore brain trauma, is inherent to the game.
CTE can presently only be diagnosed postmortem, and a long list of NFL players have been found to have suffered from the disease, which in many cases resulted in suicide.
The NFL has settled with affected players’ families for $1 billion, a settlement that may be challenged in the wake of the announcement that 110 of 111 deceased players’ brains were found to have the disease.
Further, insurance giant AIG has stopped providing insurance to NFL players for claims related to head trauma.
And CTE has been found in the brains of dead high school players.
The point at which CTE can be diagnosed in living players will be game over for football.
Aside from the human tragedy that will be associated with the declining years of football, the question arises: what will fill the vacuum of the demise of the most popular American sport?
Will international football – soccer – fill that vacuum for mock gladiatorial sport? Or possibly rugby?
These warnings were issued by Sport Scotland and the FA [for those who don’t know, the oldest football association in the world – 1863] in the aftermath of increased diagnoses of CTE in football players:
And here’s the one from England Rugby:
These are wise warnings against concussions, but remember that the best current assessment is that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy [CTE] is an incurable brain disease which is caused by repeated shock to the brain, including but not limited to concussions.
The NFL is going through this same cycle: focusing obsessively on concussions, a rarer and in some ways more avoidable injury, rather than acknowledging that the source of CTE is repeated hits below the threshold of concussion.
In contact sports, like American football and rugby, or soccer, in which such a significant part of play and practice is “heading” the ball, these repeated hits are simply unavoidable.
The tremendous cultural and financial inertia behind these sports will propel them forward, regardless.
Until diagnosis is possible in living players.
The day that those diagnoses are received, all of the diseased players will quit their sports immediately. Half or more of the non-diseased players will follow them out the door. Even more devastating for these sports, in months the NFL, FIFA, World Rugby, and many other leagues and associations, will lose their insurance coverage and sink under a tsunami of lawsuits.
We believe that there will be an opportunity for completely safe, exciting, but highly kinetic “combat” eSports, with real players competing – and spectators watching – in physical and shared virtual spaces.
[Raw Data image by Servios, Inc.]