Many people in the Woodbridge, New Jersey, area are finalizing their plans to watch the Super Bowl this weekend. As the opening kickoff draws nearer and nearer, the media is beginning to swell with stories surrounding Super Bowl 47. There are sidebar stories about brothers--Baltimore Raven's coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers' Jim Harbaugh--going head-to-head, Beyonce headlining the halftime show and various TV commercial premieres. A story that is gaining a bit less attention, however, may ultimately have the biggest impact on the NFL, more so than even the game itself.
We are referring to a news story about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease that a number of NFL retirees have suffered. Last week, a study revealed that the brain disease can be detected in live brains. Previously, CTE could only be detected after death. Now that it can be detected while people are living, many are wondering whether active NFL players will be tested for the disease, as well as college football players and even teens and children in contact sports.
Will this information alter the future of the NFL, or football entirely in this country?
Brain injury academics say that it is too early to tell. What is known about CTE is that it is a type of cumulative brain damage that seems to occur from repetitive blows to the head. Symptoms of CTE have been described as being similar to those of Alzheimer's and clinical depression.
The more that is revealed about CTE, the more people seem to become concerned about football. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called sports-related head trauma an epidemic, though it is not yet known how many times a person has to take a blow to the head before developing CTE.
While researchers continue to uncover more about this disease, about 4,000 NFL players have already sued the league accusing it of failing to protect players from brain injuries. Whatever happens on game day, it appears that the bigger story will continue to unfold.