Sports Illustrated looks at concussions effects on professional athletes

A month ago Sports Illustrated looked at concussions and their effects on professional athletes. Instead of photos of swimsuit models or multimillionaire athletes, the popular sports magazine looked at a very serious subject, that of head trauma and permanent disability in the ranks of professional athletes. The periodical looked at the hits no one is noticing, the “invisible” traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) and cumulative concussions, especially among professional football players. The SI article relates, “At the Veterans Administration hospital in Bedford, Mass., one of the world’s foremost experts on repetitive brain trauma slipped a slide into a microscope. Dr. Ann McKee, an associate professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University who has been studying the brains of deceased football players, wanted to illustrate the damage that repeated hits to the helmet can cause. This slide of a cross-section of a human male brain, magnified 100 times, showed scores, maybe hundreds, of tiny brownish triangular bits of a toxic protein called tau, choking off cellular life in the brain.”

“This is Louis Creekmur,” said McKee. “You can see there are hardly any areas untouched by the damage. Like with Wally Hilgenberg, it is widespread in Louis Creekmur. I would call it incredible chaos in the brain. Louis was demented when he died.” Lou Creekmur was a 10-year NFL offensive lineman and a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Wally Hilgenberg was a 15-year NFL linebacker and one of the key members of the Vikings’ “Purple People Eaters” defense.

Over the past three years McKee has been given the brains of 16 former NFL players, some of whom suffered dementia, ALS or severe depression. Families of the players wondered whether there was a link between football and the psychological, physical or behavioral problems that afflict some older players. Rigorous testing has been completed on 14 of the brains; 13 were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that was so widespread in the brains of Creekmur and Hilgenberg. In addition McKee has examined the brains of deceased college and high school football players and found evidence of CTE in several of them as well. “I can say confidently that this is a distinctive disorder that you don’t develop in the general population,” McKee said. “In fact, I have never seen this disease in any person who doesn’t have the kind of repetitive head trauma that football players would have.” Read more:

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