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Another life cut short by an unforgiving game [Junior Seau]
Boston Herald ^ | May 3, 2012 | Ron Borges

Posted on 05/03/2012 4:17:30 AM PDT by No One Special

Professional football should come with a warning label. Like cigarettes, football can be hazardous to your health ... and all too frequently lately it can be fatal.

If the sad truth of Junior Seau’s tragic death yesterday is that it came by his own hand, as Oceanside, Calif., police believe was the case, he is only the latest example of the ravages of a sport whose concussive demands seem to be regularly destroying its own.

Only a week ago, Ray Easterling, a former defensive back with the Atlanta Falcons, took his life in similar fashion — with a handgun that lay by his side when his wife found his body inside their home in Richmond, Va. Seau was found similarly in a bedroom overlooking the Pacific Ocean by his girlfriend yesterday morning.

Like ex-Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who took his life a year ago, Seau apparently shot himself in the chest. In Duerson’s case a note he left made clear he had done so to preserve his brain for study by a Boston University medical team tying head trauma in sports to the presence of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a protein buildup in the brain causing progressive degenerative deterioration.

The accumulation of tau protein kills certain parts of the brain related to impulse control and results in dementia, early onset Alzheimer’s, memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression. Often it leads to suicide.

Easterling was the lead plaintiff in the first of what has become an avalanche of lawsuits filed by more than 1,000 retired NFL players against the league, charging it with knowingly and willingly ignoring information tying concussions with long-term brain damage. According to the Easterling lawsuit filed last August, the NFL “continuously and vehemently denied that it knew, should have known or believed that there is any relationship between NFL players suffering concussions while playing ... and long-term problems such as headaches, dizziness, dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease that many retired players have experienced.”

Easterling, 62, allegedly suffered bouts of depression, insomnia and other symptoms linked to repeated head trauma for 20 years before being diagnosed a year ago with dementia. Seau was 43 when he took his life, barely three years after the end of a 20-year NFL career in which he was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and the definition of the often misused term “first ballot Hall of Famer.’’

“He felt like his brain was falling off,’’ Easterling’s wife, Mary Ann, told foxsports.com after his death. “He was losing control.’’

Now we have Seau, a gentle bear of a man known in San Diego not only for his exemplary playing career but also for his charitable foundation begun 20 years ago and for a popular restaurant that bore his name. He had, it would seem, everything to live for, but ended up alone and despairing in his final minutes after having texted his ex-wife, Gina DeBoer, and their three children individually “I love you’’ the previous day.

None thought much of it beyond appreciating that expression, but late yesterday DeBoer responded to the tragedy on her Facebook page with one word: “lost.’’

There is so much pain in that one word and in Seau’s passing. Anyone who knew him quickly recognized his passion for football and life, a man easily approachable and openly kind, even to strangers.

Now he is gone in a haze very likely caused by the savagery of the game he loved. Pro football and the men who run it have much to think about this morning beyond grief. They have to think about where their game is headed.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: athletes; chargers; cte; football; juniorseau; nfl; seau; suicide
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Wikipedia info on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is here.
1 posted on 05/03/2012 4:17:36 AM PDT by No One Special
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To: No One Special

The loss of this great athlete, and, by all accounts, exemplary human being is tragic - and doubly so since it gives ammunition to the “zero tolerance for risk”, “wrap in cotton cradle-to-the-grave” proponents...


2 posted on 05/03/2012 4:23:04 AM PDT by Uncle Ike (Rope is cheap, and there are lots of trees...)
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To: Uncle Ike

But trying to imply that football was responsible is total bs. The rate for teen suicide is higher than any other group, but using this guys logic implies that you just should’t be a teen.


3 posted on 05/03/2012 4:25:53 AM PDT by richardtavor
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To: richardtavor

To compare apples to apples, how does the suicide rate among former NFL players compare to that of former major league baseball players? I don’t know but would be interested in finding out.

To indicate my bias, I detest football, it’s an ugly game in my view. And I think baseball is the finest sport ever conceived by the mind of man. But that’s just me.


4 posted on 05/03/2012 4:31:27 AM PDT by OldPossum
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To: richardtavor

Nobody took more blows to the head than Muhammed Ali, He may be punchy , but he hasn’t killed himself.


5 posted on 05/03/2012 4:31:35 AM PDT by Venturer
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To: richardtavor
The rate for teen suicide is higher than any other group,

That is not accurate. According to NIMH, the highest rate (14.3 per 100,000) is for people 65 and older. The next highest is ages 20-24, followed by 15-19.

The author's logic is correct, as far as it goes. If men from age groups that are less likely to commit suicide are doing so in unexpected numbers, then perhaps they have a significant factor in common: a factor such as head trauma. This reasoning doesn't prove the causation, but the article says physical studies and other research are being done on the subject.

6 posted on 05/03/2012 4:34:28 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Do you know why I love reptiles? It's because they don't play guitars or ukuleles.)
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To: No One Special

-—Seau was 43 when he took his life, barely three years after the end of a 20-year NFL career in which he was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection.——

My guess is post-retirement depression (which usually manifests itself in a new career of drug-dealing). His first suicide attempt came the year after he retired.

I heard Fred Smerlas talk about the phenomenon this morning.


7 posted on 05/03/2012 4:40:09 AM PDT by St_Thomas_Aquinas (Viva Christo Rey!)
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To: No One Special

If I were trying to ruin America...I’d blame the NFL for every former player’s suicide.


8 posted on 05/03/2012 4:40:42 AM PDT by mac_truck ( Aide toi et dieu t aidera)
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To: No One Special

How long ago was he divorced and what role does the divorce play in the suicide? Seems that would be a far more proximate cause than football.

(Please note that concussions do need to be watched out for, and I believe the NFL is doing a better job of that. I don’t believe that concussions lead directly to suicide for these guys who have everything else going for them though)


9 posted on 05/03/2012 4:44:49 AM PDT by John O (God Save America (Please))
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To: OldPossum

I’m with you, OP. I LOVE baseball. Football, not so much.


10 posted on 05/03/2012 4:44:53 AM PDT by JudyinCanada
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To: Venturer

Nobody took more blows to the head than Muhammed Ali,

A good response to this article. And something else could be related to the demise of some of these pro’s.... all the wealth poured up-on these athletes should be considered. Not many can grasp or hold on to money. Often, many end in debt’s (phy) they cannot repay.


11 posted on 05/03/2012 4:44:58 AM PDT by buck61
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To: No One Special
Now he is gone in a haze very likely caused by the savagery of the game he loved.

And why did he love the game? And why was he so good at it? Yah, he was one tough SOB willing to give it as much as take it. Pro football is not for the faint of heart, but if they change it so that it is for the faint of heart in order to try and prevent CTE....well...guys like Seau probably won't want to play it, and a lot of fans won't want to watch it.

12 posted on 05/03/2012 4:58:40 AM PDT by HerrBlucher
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To: Venturer

Ali didn’t box weekend after weekend after weekend, year after year after year. Bad comparison.


13 posted on 05/03/2012 5:04:14 AM PDT by Clara Lou
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To: OldPossum

I’m not one to tell people what to do with themselves, as long as their actions don’t unduly affect others, but the human body wasn’t made to endure football. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that is in dreamland.
Even if I thought it was fun to watch, I wouldn’t. I consider it to much like the roman gladiator games. I wont amuse myself that way.


14 posted on 05/03/2012 5:04:16 AM PDT by LevinFan
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To: HerrBlucher

“..guys like Seau probably won’t want to play it, and a lot of fans won’t want to watch it. “

It’s almost unwatchable now, with a rule book that rivals the US Tax Code for convolution and complexity, compounded by Instant Replay — and, increasingly, the involvement of lawyers in the minutae of the game...


15 posted on 05/03/2012 5:06:59 AM PDT by Uncle Ike (Rope is cheap, and there are lots of trees...)
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To: Clara Lou

Ali didn’t wear a helmet either.


16 posted on 05/03/2012 5:12:47 AM PDT by Venturer
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To: No One Special
Sad story, but I hesitate to say this is because of repeated brain trauma. Seen to many “crises” manufactured by the MSM.
17 posted on 05/03/2012 5:13:46 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: LevinFan
I wont amuse myself that way.

You and I, both. And the denial here shown by some is disturbing.

That said, I'd be at least as worried about the effect of playing football on the developing brain.

18 posted on 05/03/2012 5:17:04 AM PDT by Trailerpark Badass
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To: No One Special

First — it’s very sad to hear of his death. He seemed like a good guy.

Second — who thinks they can repeatedly hit their head on something(s) and come out ok afterward? Esp. when it happens for weeks on end, year after year. It does not take ‘studies’ to figure out that, gee, multiple concussions can’t be good for brain matter.

So, on the one hand: lots of money, fame, etc. On the other, brain damage. I think NFL players picked their poison.


19 posted on 05/03/2012 5:18:46 AM PDT by HGSW0904
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To: Venturer
"Nobody took more blows to the head than Muhammed Ali, He may be punchy , but he hasn’t killed himself."

George Chuvalo (The Rock) certainly did, and many of them at the hands of Ali, whom he fought twice. Despite that, George's speech and thought is still as clear as a bell.

20 posted on 05/03/2012 5:20:17 AM PDT by PUGACHEV
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To: HerrBlucher
And soccer? Horse riding?

There are other sports that have similar issues.

The problem with football is that there is to much padding. As Dikta said, take away the face masks and they will stop leading with their heads.

I have seen other people who left sports suffer from depression. It is actually very common. Did the head trauma have an effect? It may. But leaving the game they love and have dedicated their life to is very upsetting.

21 posted on 05/03/2012 5:26:18 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Venturer

I could be wrong but I think Ali is at the point where he is incapable of taking his own life even if he wanted to.


22 posted on 05/03/2012 5:32:59 AM PDT by xp38
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To: redgolum

Last I heard, soccer was almost as safety as shuffle board. All sports activities have some physical risks, but football is by far the worst. Especially with the competition for an NFL position.
Do what your want, but I wouldn’t allowed a child of mine to play football, and would discourage them from watching. Football is a pure blood sport that is as vicious as gladatorial games in rome.


23 posted on 05/03/2012 5:46:01 AM PDT by LevinFan
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To: Clara Lou

And Ali has endured a debilitating, neurological illness


24 posted on 05/03/2012 5:55:27 AM PDT by Josa
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To: LevinFan
Actually, the “heading” of the ball is very bad for kids. Repeated head trauma is not a good idea, and I have seen the effects of it.

Football isn't the worst for injuries, but it is the most popular. Boxing and MMA takes a much harder tole on people.

25 posted on 05/03/2012 6:07:23 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: HGSW0904
who thinks they can repeatedly hit their head on something(s) and come out ok afterward? Esp. when it happens for weeks on end, year after year. It does not take ‘studies’ to figure out that, gee, multiple concussions can’t be good for brain matter.

So, on the one hand: lots of money, fame, etc. On the other, brain damage. I think NFL players picked their poison.

What about soccer, which features the "head shot," in which the player uses his head to hit the ball? And don't forget baseball. Tony Conigliaro's death at the age of 45 was probably due, at least in part, to having been hit in the head by a bean ball.

26 posted on 05/03/2012 6:08:14 AM PDT by Fiji Hill (Deo Vindice!)
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To: redgolum

I agree. Football players nowadays use their bodies as missiles and too often lead with their heads. That’s not the way the game used to be played. It’s the product of up-armoring the players.

Football has always been a rough game, but I’d bet that if one could find reliable comparative statistics from 1930 through the 1960’s or so, one would not find nearly the modern incidence of brain injury. A comparison with rugby players would also be instructive.


27 posted on 05/03/2012 6:21:56 AM PDT by sphinx
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To: Fiji Hill
What about soccer, which features the "head shot," in which the player uses his head to hit the ball? And don't forget baseball. Tony Conigliaro's death at the age of 45 was probably due, at least in part, to having been hit in the head by a bean ball. Heading a soccer ball doesn't feel great -- but I don't know that concussions are a regular occurrence in the sport (I don't know, I really don't follow soccer and haven't played since high school). Baseball? Head injuries are the exception, not the norm. One can hardly compare repeated crashing of the head into bodies and the ground as found in football to headers and the occasional wayward pitch or line drive. Sometimes #$%^&* happens. I played softball for years. Got clocked on the back of the head by a(I was a catcher) once or twice. I had a helmet (which I hated) so it was really not a big deal, but if I have some sort of damage to my head...I have some sort of damage to my head. I'm not going to sue the Girl's Softball Association over it. Football is a high-contact, dangerous sport. You make choices. And you live -- or die -- by them. I've got compassion for those affected by their decisions, but when you make a decision, you live with ALL of the consequences: good and bad, intended and unintended. That's the way life rolls.
28 posted on 05/03/2012 6:23:35 AM PDT by HGSW0904
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To: HGSW0904

...should read ‘clocked by a bat once or twice’. Could be that brain damage kicking in early. ;-)


29 posted on 05/03/2012 6:25:02 AM PDT by HGSW0904
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To: redgolum
As Dikta said, take away the face masks and they will stop leading with their heads.

And no more face masking penalties. However, a lot more broken noses, black eyes etc. Better those though than concussions. My father played four years of college ball in the days when you played both defense and offense (center and linebacker)....all with a leather helmet. His only injury was a broken leg while coaching.

30 posted on 05/03/2012 6:28:20 AM PDT by HerrBlucher
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To: St_Thomas_Aquinas
“My guess is post-retirement depression (which usually manifests itself in a new career of drug-dealing). His first suicide attempt came the year after he retired.”

My guess is that “ost-retirement depression” is caused by a forced life style change imposed by lack of money. These guys during their playing years invariably live a life style as though it will go on forever. Then, when the music stops and hence the money stops they can't deal with it. Result, suicide....

31 posted on 05/03/2012 6:37:16 AM PDT by snoringbear (Government is the Pimp,)
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To: Fiji Hill

Injuries in baseball are usually minor compared to football, and they don’t get hit in the head very often. in football, they make physical contact in almost every play. And by physical contact, I mean someone gets body slammed each time.
I’d agreed that hitting a ball with your head in soccer isn’t too bright, it isn’t the same as getting hit by a 200+ lb. man coming at you in full charge, with five more right behind him.


32 posted on 05/03/2012 6:38:58 AM PDT by LevinFan
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To: redgolum

What is MMA?


33 posted on 05/03/2012 6:39:54 AM PDT by LevinFan
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To: HGSW0904
Rush Limbaugh has been crusading against the dangerous sport of soccer. He set up an organization called Keep Our Own Kids Safe, which lobbies for reforming the sport through reforms such as outlawing "heading." The group's long-range goal is to have soccer banned altogether.

However, KOOKS has been opposed by Big Soccer, which includes corporate giants such as Addidas which have a financial stake in the sport.

34 posted on 05/03/2012 6:45:10 AM PDT by Fiji Hill (Deo Vindice!)
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To: Fiji Hill

This is a joke, right? I can’t see rush ever involved in something like that.


35 posted on 05/03/2012 6:52:44 AM PDT by LevinFan
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To: Fiji Hill
Gary Speed, a Welsh soccer player about the same age as Seau, committed suicide last fall. The thinking in Speed's case was that it was caused by depression due to the end of his sporting career.

Then there's the well-known sad case of relief pitcher Donnie Moore's suicide a few months after his baseball career ended.

36 posted on 05/03/2012 7:08:20 AM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
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To: Trailerpark Badass
I don't care one way or the other about pro sports but it is not denial. No one held a gun to the head of any football player and compelled them to play. They are not slaves as were many of the gladiators. They are adults and signed on for the conditions of the contract. The problems they have later are their problems not the rest of us. They are compensated at a high level for the risks they incur and if they lack the sense or foresight to prepare to deal with these issues it is their problem pure and simple. If free men wished to engage in gladiatorial combat I would have no objection. It is their lives to risk and no one elses concern.
37 posted on 05/03/2012 7:11:38 AM PDT by robowombat
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To: Fiji Hill

Considering the way the NFL establishment has treated him over the years, Limbaugh might ought to think about favoring soccer football over American gridiron football.


38 posted on 05/03/2012 7:12:25 AM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
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To: LevinFan

Mixed Martial Arts.

Boxing using more than your hands. Very brutal


39 posted on 05/03/2012 7:13:17 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: HerrBlucher
They were a lot smaller in those days, but you are right.
Dikta came to a benefit for one of my wife's students. He (the student), died of a spinal cord injury from playing football. Legal hit, but the player led with his head while running the ball. Opposing player hit him with the pad, and snapped my wife's student's neck.
40 posted on 05/03/2012 7:17:26 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: robowombat
These guys don't start playing football when they sign their rookie contract. Most pros have been playing since 5-6 years old, and as I said, I am more concerned about head trauma on developing brains. Frankly, I think any parent who lets his kid play football is an idiot.

And your free market/social darwinism outlook is one I might have shared even just a couple of years ago. No longer. Any person suffering from depression would gladly trade any material riches they have to be rid of it. Sadly, though, the damage was likely done to these individuals before they had ability to understand its ramifications.

Without an audience, without the promise of riches and fame, football would be consigned to the same area in our culture as fight clubs.

41 posted on 05/03/2012 7:44:57 AM PDT by Trailerpark Badass
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To: LevinFan

you have “bad” info. Studies, as far back as the 1960’s, have shown that Soccer causes more head injuries and later in life “punch drunkenness”than either boxing or football. They not only use the head on the ball but constantly bang heads going for a ball,without head gear. A note- leather balls, after getting wet(grass, rain, dew,etc), are extremely dense


42 posted on 05/03/2012 7:46:18 AM PDT by capt B
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To: LevinFan

you have “bad” info. Studies, as far back as the 1960’s, have shown that Soccer causes more head injuries and later in life “punch drunkenness”than either boxing or football. They not only use the head on the ball but constantly bang heads going for a ball,without head gear. A note- leather balls, after getting wet(grass, rain, dew,etc), are extremely dense


43 posted on 05/03/2012 7:46:41 AM PDT by capt B
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To: No One Special
Pro football and the men who run it have much to think about this morning beyond grief. They have to think about where their game is headed.

Flag football ... is that where this is going?
I've been a NFL season ticket holder for 35 years ... it's a rough game & players that make it to the NFL are handsomely rewarded. Some players walk away disabled ... that's the risk they take going in ... and given the opportunity to start their football career over again most would follow that same path.

44 posted on 05/03/2012 8:05:26 AM PDT by BluH2o
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To: John O
How long ago was he divorced and what role does the divorce play in the suicide? Seems that would be a far more proximate cause than football.

Give me a break. He had been divorced TEN YEARS.

45 posted on 05/03/2012 8:10:45 AM PDT by newzjunkey
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To: Colonel Kangaroo
Then there's the well-known sad case of relief pitcher Donnie Moore's suicide a few months after his baseball career ended.

Donnie Moore never got over blowing a save in Game Five of the 1986 ALCS that would have sent the California Angels to their first World Series to face the Mets. It wasn't even really his fault, as Gene Mauch's use of his bullpen was pretty abysmal, running his closer, whom he had over used all season, out there for three full innings when the forkballer was really only good for two at the most.
46 posted on 05/03/2012 8:27:15 AM PDT by Goldsborough
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To: Tax-chick
... but the article says physical studies and other research are being done on the subject.

Some of the folks on this thread, insisting football can't possibly have been a factor because They Believe™, willfully ignore the physical brain studies.

I've seen what brain injury can do to a person and can understand why these players would take their lives before they full lost control and became unrecognizable as themselves.

47 posted on 05/03/2012 8:29:04 AM PDT by newzjunkey (I advocate separation of school and sport)
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To: Tax-chick
... but the article says physical studies and other research are being done on the subject.

Some of the folks on this thread, insisting football can't possibly have been a factor because They Believe™, willfully ignore the physical brain studies.

I've seen what brain injury can do to a person and can understand why these players would take their lives before they full lost control and became unrecognizable as themselves.

48 posted on 05/03/2012 8:29:04 AM PDT by newzjunkey (I advocate separation of school and sport)
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To: No One Special

I have no clue if his suicide was related to his years of playing football or not, but I do know playing that video of his mother over & over again is unnecessary and cruel. I can understand airing it once, maybe twice. Other than that, over the top.

May he rest in peace. By all accounts he was a good man who helped others, but could not reach out for his own help.


49 posted on 05/03/2012 8:58:42 AM PDT by Protect the Bill of Rights
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To: redgolum
Many years ago our U of Waterloo rugby team went down to South Bend to play Notre Dame. We were told that NOBODY in the football program was allowed to play rugby because they had worn ‘armor’ all their lives and their were too many head and upper body injuries.

When you play rugby, you have to be very careful where you put your head when tackling people. There is another caution about dirty play in rugby. You are on the field for 80 minutes. That is a long time for your opponents and their mates to get even!

50 posted on 05/03/2012 9:07:13 AM PDT by BillM (.)
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