NFL Hall of Famer Harry Carson has told a congressional panel that before parents sign their children up to play football, they should be informed that the sport can cause long-term neurological damage, even to players who do not have obvious concussion symptoms. Carson, other former NFL players, and brain injury researchers spoke at an October 13th forum organized by House Democrats to explore what, if anything, Congress can do to make the nation’s most popular spectator sport safer for its players.
The congressional forum is the latest in a string of high-profile inquiries into the physical effects that football can have on its players. The largest study of this kind was published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association by researchers from Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System. Researchers examined the brains of 202 deceased former football players at all levels and found that nearly 88 percent of the brains, 177, showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The study’s most concerning finding was that three of 14 who had played only high school football had CTE, as did 48 of 53 college players. This study indicates that the effects of CTE on football players are being felt far beyond the professional realm, and at all levels of play.
Carson, who is a former linebacker who made nine Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl in his 13-year career with the New York Giants, now devotes much of his time to raising awareness of head trauma and said that he will not allow his eight-year-old grandson to play football. “Every parent should be informed. They should be informed as to what risks they are subjecting their kids to,” said Carson, who was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome in 1990. “Understand that your child could be subject to a neurological injury that could affect them for the rest of their lives.”
The panel also included researchers from Boston University who found that, among 111 deceased NFL players whose families donated their brains for study, 110 of them showed signs of CTE. In order for the risk of brain disease to drop substantially, the sport will have to evolve into something virtually unrecognizable, said Dr. Ann McKee, the lead researcher on the Boston University study. “We need to start thinking about some very severe changes to the game so that the players wouldn’t be having collisions and tackles on every play,” McKee said. “Collision tackles and sub-concussive hits are an intrinsic part of the sport. That is what the NFL has not dealt with to date.”
The NFL declined to send a representative to the forum. The league has acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease after years of denials and agreed in 2015 to a $1 billion settlement with former players.
Contact an Atlanta Sports Injury Attorney
If your child has been injured while playing football or any other sport as a result of improper safety procedures, you may be able to recover through a personal injury action. Contact the Atlanta sports injury attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Marietta, Smyrna, and Decatur.