Hall of Fame quarterback and FOX analyst Terry Bradshaw has become the latest former player to say that he would not allow his offspring to play football.
"If I had a son today, and I would say this to all our audience and our viewers out there, I would not let him play football," Bradshaw said during a Wednesday appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
"There will be a time in the next decade where we will not see football as it is, I believe," the former Pittsburgh Steelers great said.
In football players who take lots of hits to the head, their immune system may be attacking their brain.
That shouldn’t be possible, because a healthy blood-brain barrier keeps antibodies firmly on the body side - but new research shows that even sub-concussive hits can cause that barrier to leak. Brain proteins spill through to the body, and antibodies to those proteins can enter the brain, potentially destroying cells.
That means that the long-term brain damage seen in football players and boxers may be, essentially, an autoimmune disease.
(The study was published today in PLOS One.
It used to be that loss of consciousness was the marker of a concussion. Then, it was the marker of a bad concussion. Now we know that concussions can have very subtle symptoms, detectable by computerized or app-based tests.
Now evidence has been mounting over the last decade that even smaller hits add up.
High school soccer players, in a study published last week, showed subtle changes after practice in their ability to point away from an object on a tablet-based app. I wasn’t crazy about the study because the control group hardly seemed comparable (non-athlete students) but the results are along the lines of what we’d expect to see if sub-concussions are a problem: subtle brain damage after minor hits to the head.
Then comes the study published today in PLOS One. Rather than looking at cognitive deficits, they tested college football players’ blood for S100B, a protein that’s found in the blood after brain injury and, the authors say, is an accepted marker of concussion.
The bottom line on football players’ S100B: it spiked after games, but returned to baseline within 24 hours. The more head hits they’d had in the game, the higher the S100B levels. (Nobody in the study had a concussion.) This suggests that the blood-brain barrier is breached during each game, letting those proteins into the bloodstream when they should be staying in the brain.
The next time the player takes a hit, and the blood-brain barrier opens up again, those antibodies can cross into the brain, attacking the protein at its source. [I think the immune attack on the brain at this stage does not require further trauma, because primed immune system cells can cross the blood-brain barrier, even when antibodies cannot.] This study didn’t look at brain damage directly, but they did find that although S100B always returned to baseline, the anti-S100B antibodies increased steadily throughout the season.
The very act of playing American Football = brain damage. Every time you see your son put on a helmet, you 're sending him out to the brain damage factory
"Another thing he might mention is this absurd concussion lobby, which consists of these researchers in Boston and other assorted grant-grubbing academics and worry warts who are all trying hard to push this nanny state narrative," Walker wrote. "The quarterback of that team is, of course, the NYT - but we wouldn't want to mention them in the piece."
"He also misses out on some strong arguments in football's favor," the editor added, and went on to list four points in defense of football, including the lower brain-damage rate among younger players, the changes already taking place to protect players' health, the fact that risk was an inherent part of life, and the fact that football "is a consciously AMERICAN game... part of our national identity-as much as, if not more so, than baseball."
Players aren't dying in rugby.
Google 'rugby player killed'.
So what just happened? Beats me. At best we've seen some clumsy shuffling to cover a lack of due diligence. At worst, a promising relationship between two journalism powerhouses that could have done more good together has been sacrificed to mollify a league under siege. The best isn't very good, but if the worst turns out to be true, it’s a chilling reminder how often the profit motive wins the duel.
More than a sign of the times, it's a sign of concern. Here in the land of Dan Marino, Joe Namath, Joe Montana and Mike Ditka, fewer high school students are opting to play football.
Coaches say a big reason is parents concerned about concussions.
Although the trend has not been enough to dim those Friday Night Lights, the falling numbers are striking. The Post-Gazette's Mike White reported last week that many of the WPIAL's teams have smaller squads than 10 years ago. At Woodland Hills High School, the number of players fell from 94 in 2003 to 62 this year, a 34 percent drop. Other schools have seen similar declines: Baldwin, 27 percent; Shaler, 27 percent; North Hills, 25 percent; Fox Chapel, 21 percent.
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