CNN.com today has a feature-length story about the long-term damage to the brains of athletes who have suffered concussions. The findings come from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTSE), which receives and studies dead athletes’ brains solicited by the Sports Legacy Institute, started by former WWE wrestler and “Tough Enough” contestant Chris Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu (their last names sound like an argument). The story quotes Nowinski’s inspiration for starting the foundation:
In one moment, his dreams of a long career wrestling were dashed by a kick to his chin. That kick, which caused Nowinski to black out and effectively ended his career, capped a career riddled with concussions.
“My world changed,” said Nowinski. “I had depression. I had memory problems. My head hurt for five years.”
Nowinski began searching for studies, and what he found startled him.
“I realized when I was visiting a lot of doctors, they weren’t giving me very good answers about what was wrong with my head,” said Nowinski. “I read [every study I could find] and I realized there was a ton of evidence showing concussions lead to depression, and multiple concussion can lead to Alzheimer’s.”
The story also says five out of five brains studied by CTSE show the damaging effects (known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE) of multiple concussions (a two-photo slide show is available on this page and, yuck, that beat-up brain is in bad shape), and that “the [protein] tangles [in the damaged brains] closely resemble what might be found in the brain of an 80-year-old with dementia.” No wonder Chris Benoit killed his wife and kid Sophia on “The Golden Girls” was always angry.
According to the article, the NFL’s official statement (*yawn*) says “Hundreds of thousands of people have played football and other sports without experiencing any problem of this type and there continues to be considerable debate within the medical community on the precise long-term effects of concussions and how they relate to other risk factors.” I’m sure Vince McMahon’s reaction to the findings will be slightly less diplomatic, knocking papers out of everyone’s hands and then shouting, “Now ask me a question! Huh? Huh? Awww, you gonna cry?” -Eric