Sunday, May 8, 2011

Scourge

This week, the Boston University School of Medicine Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy announced that Bears great Dave Duerson's brain showed moderately advanced chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a/k/a Punch Drunk Syndrome, a/k/a Dementia pugilistica.  Duerson's ex-wife and all four of their children were in Boston when the announcement was made.  Tregg Duerson said this gave the family some measure of closure and that his greatest hope was his father's death was not in vain and that through the research of the center, his legacy would live on and others would not have to suffer as Duerson and his family had.

Yes, I read it and teared up.  Even now as I think of it, I tear up.  Read about it yourself:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/02/nfl.player.suicide/?hpt=Sbin

Everything I've read about Dave Duerson, every TV interview I saw over the years, showed a really smart, eloquent man.  In high school he was given the chance to play with the 1979 LA Dodgers but declined.  He was the 1979 Indiana Mr. Football and was part of the National Honor Society and the Musical Ambassadors All-American Band.  He went to the University of Notre Dame and played football -- as a starter all four years -- and graduated with honors with a BA in Economics (he served on the Board of Trustees).   He won Super Bowl rings playing for the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants.  He and Alicia had three sons and a daughter.  Tregg went on to play football at the University of Notre Dame, like his dad, but stopped after the first year to concentrate on his degree.  

At last week's Bears Expo, former Bears Steve McMichael and Tom Thayer expressed the opinion that  the game of football is getting soft.  I wonder what they think in light of these findings.

I keep thinking about a hypothetical guy who has a great career as a professional athlete.  He married a wonderful, bright woman who is his soulmate.  They believe in the same things and have a family.  Their kids are encouraged to do their best and to work hard.  Maybe he helps his daughter dye her hair for Halloween or with a pedicure when she is feeling down.  He doesn't care what his fan base might think; she is his daughter and that's what dads do.  He helps his kids with homework.  He attends their concerts, debates, plays, games, and loves their mother.  He is totally devoted to the whole family.  They camp, jog, play, listen to music, hang out, eat dinner at the same time every night, and talk for hours.  Then one day, it falls apart.

Dad can't remember words, has a super short fuse, is inexplicably sad, and has changed into someone they sometimes just don't know.  Things go slowly downhill until one day they get way worse and then unimaginably worse.  If it were your dad, you'd be confused, hurt, disappointed, sad, and probably relieved if you one day figured out what happened to that terrific guy, even after he passed on.

CTE is the scourge of the NFL, the NHL, boxing, and any other sport where a brain takes a beating.  Yes, they are exciting sports, the triumph of man over his own muscles and those of his opponents, but at what cost?

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Alan Schwartz writes about CTE for the New York Times.  This is yesterday's article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/08/sports/football/08duerson.html

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