Dark cloud lingers over foot­ball as the sea­son be­gins

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - PAUL NEWBERRY

It all sounded so fa­mil­iar, even com­fort­ing, this rite of fall that comes in the midst of sum­mer.

The quar­ter­back bark­ing out the call.

The grunts and thuds of gi­ant men run­ning into each other.

An NFL train­ing camp pro­vides a re­as­sur­ing sym­phony to those who cher­ish Amer­ica’s real na­tional pas­time.

But a dark cloud con­tin­ues to linger over foot­ball as we be­gin a new sea­son.

How long can this glad­i­a­to­rial sport sur­vive when former play­ers are suf­fer­ing and dy­ing from dam­age they took on the field? Should it sur­vive? Roughly coin­cid­ing with the start of train­ing camps around the coun­try, from high schools to col­leges to the NFL, we got per­haps the most dis­turb­ing re­port yet con­firm­ing what we al­ready knew.

Foot­ball is re­ally, re­ally bad for your health.

“Any player who tells you they haven’t put some sort of thought into it, they’re not be­ing truth­ful with you,” said San Fran­cisco 49ers run­ning back Kyle Juszczyk. “It was a scary statis­tic.”

Cer­tainly, it was im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the star­tling re­search from Bos­ton Univer­sity on 202 former foot­ball play­ers , that showed nearly all of them suf­fered from a brain dis­ease linked to re­peated head blows.

Even more com­pelling, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­leased a heart­break­ing se­ries de­tail­ing the enor­mous hu­man toll that CTE (chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy) has on fam­i­lies when their loved ones be­came mere shells of them­selves, grap­pling in the lat­ter years of their in­creas­ingly di­min­ished lives with mem­ory loss, mood swings, de­pres­sion and er­ratic be­hav­iour.

Foot­ball play­ers are some of the tough­est peo­ple, ac­cus­tomed to deal­ing with the pain and hard­ship that their sport de­mands.

Many of them, hav­ing grown up in hard­scrab­ble cir­cum­stances, turned to foot­ball as a con­duit to a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion and a pros­per­ous life they wouldn’t have had oth­er­wise.

They’re ap­pre­cia­tive of what it has done for them, and they’re not about to turn their backs on it, no mat­ter how damn­ing the re­search.

“In this life, ev­ery­thing comes with pros and cons,” Wash­ing­ton of­fen­sive tackle Trent Wil­liams said. “I mean, my daddy worked on cars for 30 years and he got a bad back, bad knees and arthri­tis in his joints. So stand­ing up on con­crete work­ing that long is go­ing to have its ef­fects on you. But you have to feed your fam­ily, so you’ve got to make de­ci­sions.”

He then turned to his cho­sen pro­fes­sion.

“When you’re blessed to play some­thing that you love and get paid hand­somely for it, you can’t ex­pect ev­ery­thing to be all peaches and cream,” Wil­liams con­tin­ued. “So if that’s what comes with it, that’s what comes with it.”

Noth­ing wrong with that. As long as he’s fully aware of the risks and knows what it could mean later in life, there’s no rea­son he shouldn’t be al­lowed to play, no rea­son we can’t cheer for his ex­ploits.

But there are in­di­ca­tions that more and more play­ers are pay­ing at­ten­tion to the tell­tale signs of trou­ble down the road.

Yes, you can make foot­ball safer.

But you can never make it safe, not in its cur­rent form.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.