Friday, July 23, 2010

Chris Henry's Brain

Under the heading of “stuff I meant to post about 3 weeks ago”, we have this:

Former Bengal Henry Found to Have Had Brain Damage
By Alan Schwarz, NYT
Dr. Julian Bailes and Dr. Bennet Omalu of the Brain Injury Research Institute at West Virginia University announced on Monday that Henry, 26, had developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the progressive brain disease whose recent discovery in some retired N.F.L. players has raised questions of football’s long-term safety risks. The 22nd professional football player to be given a diagnosis of C.T.E., Henry is the first to have died with the disease while active after 2007, when prior C.T.E. findings prompted the N.F.L. to begin strengthening rules regarding concussion management.
It's taken me forever to write about this; and now that I force myself to do it, I realize that the problem is that I don't really have anything to say on the subject.

Much respect to Alan Schwarz at the Grey Lady, who has kept this subject (brain deterioration in NFL players) in the forefront as a story. Ultimately I think it's THE most important football story. I'm proud of our little blog for talking about it consistently. But overall it's hard to be anything but sad.
“I was surprised in a way because of his age and because he was not known as a concussion sufferer or a big hitter. Is there some lower threshold when you become at risk for this disease? I’m struggling to see if something can come out positive out of this.”
Dr Bailes is right. If Chris Henry developed CTE by age 26, then don't all NFL players have it, to one degree or another? Has a former player ever been tested for it, and found not to have it? The only thing I can see coming out of this, ultimately, is a ban on contact football for youth players.

While we ponder the levels of moroseness and guilt appropriate to the topic of CTE and football, go read this amazing series. Rick Telander is a columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, and a former Northwestern football player. He did a series of articles:
“The Team: What football did for us and – what football did to us” is a nine-part series by Sun-Times' award-winning columnist Rick Telander about the 1968-1970 Northwestern Wildcats, a team for which he played. This story begins at a brain research lab in Massachusetts, and it will end there, too. But on the way it moves about the country as Telander visits with old teammates and talks about the sport they played together years ago, the one that shaped them, rewarded them and wounded them.
This is must-read stuff.
What football did for us and - what football did to us
The story of the 1968-1970 Northwestern Wildcats
Part 1: What football did for us and - what football did to us
Part 2: 'I have lost words on air occasionally'
Part 3:The study too far ahead of its time
Part 4: 'I liked the physical contact. A lot of people don't like it. I always did.'
Part 5:'I had my concussions, but I never would allow myself to be held out of a game for that.'
Part 6:'I was fuzzy after I hit a guy's knee'
Part 7: 'I was never diagnosed with a concussion, but ...'
Part 8: 'I have to jot things down to remember them'
Part 9: 'I'm a cheerleader for the brain'


  1. Thanks for linking the Telander series...I've been meaning to read it, will need to find some time to get through it cause it's loooooooong.

  2. No, it does not mean every player has it if Chris Henry does. Some people get breast/colon cancer in their 20s instead of their 50s, etc. Henry could have been doing any number of things outside of football that contribute to CTE - drugs, other sports as a kid, had car accidents, etc.

    Of course, football is the likeliest culprit.



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