Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Slow Motion Killing

10

Bob McKeown was on McCown yesterday promoting tonight’s episode of the Fifth Estate. He had news that Gary Bettman and Paul Kelly would be well advised to consider:

Recent research by neuroscientists now shows the link between on-the-field concussions and brain damage; a permanent injury that can lead to depression, suicide and severe aberrant behaviour. The damage is so profound, the researchers say, that post-mortem examinations of the brain tissue of five former professional football players can be compared only to the tissue found in the brain tissue of advanced Alzheimers cases.

Apparently professional football players have a life expectancy that is 20 years shorter than the average man. I’d like to know whether we’d see the the same kind of shocking result if someone ran the actuarial tables for hockey players.

Would the league eliminate head shots if someone was killed by one in a game? For sure. Does it really matter if the death is delayed by a few years? Should it? What kind of risks can we expect players to take to entertain us?

Its past time to take action.

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10 Responses to “Slow Motion Killing”
  1. Magicpie says:

    Apparently professional football players have a life expectancy that is 20 years shorter than the average man. I’d like to know whether we’d see the the same kind of shocking result if someone ran the actuarial tables for hockey players.

    Probably not. Football players take a lot more damage from other sources too. Depression/brain damage yes, but I don’t think it’s fair so say that concussions are responsible for lower life expectancy too.

  2. Tom says:

    Probably not.

    There are other factors with football. There is surely a hidden steroids issue and it isn’t healthy to weigh 300 pounds. That said, McKeown indicated the number one cause was brain injury. (Linemen were worse than the backs – their average death age was 52.)

    The NHL does have a very high concussion rate, and the average life expectancy for a hockey player can be a lot better than football players with a still shocking result. Would you trade, say, 10 years of your life to play pro hockey? Is it fair to ask players to make that trade so that we get to see guys leveled with huge hits?

  3. mclea says:

    I’d be real hesitant to assume here that the decrease in life expectancy is due to concussions, or factors related to head trauma.

    First of all, I think it’s absolutely meaningless to compare the average life expectancy of football players to that of the average man. Almost half the players on the field at any giving time are lineman, and these guys on average will weigh somewhere around 300lbs. And this is when they are playing professional football. God only knows how much their weight balloons once they stop playing everyday.

    So a more appropriate comparison would be to other obese, exceptionally large males. If this was done, I imagine the difference would be far, far less than 20 years.

    Secondly, they spent an entire segment talking about examples of former players who, allegedly as a result of head trauma suffered during their playing years, experienced unfortunate deaths (suicide, ect). An NFL roster has 50 players, and there are 30 teams in the league, for 1500 players a year. Presumably the data used for this actuary study spanned over several decades. If you took a sample of 40,000 people from any profession, be it construction, dentistry, whatever, I guarantee you could find a hand full of cases where people suffered unfortunate deaths. The fact that there are professional football players who had mental issues post football proves nothing, unless the difference in the number of these instances is statistically significant relative to a comparable group, which wasn’t demonstrated.

    Lastly, there’s a handful of other factors that would need to be accounted for before we could assume that the decrease in life expectancy is due to head trauma, such as:

    - The increase in the quality of equipment since the period when this data was collected
    - Other characteristics unique to football players. Maybe football players are more likely than other people to have unhealthy life styles post football. Maybe they are more inclined to engage in high risk behaviour. None of this was addressed.
    - The general physical toll taking on the body by playing football. I imagine the life expectancy of field workers is lower than people who spend their life in cubicles, and this difference would have nothing to do with higher instances of head trauma.

  4. beingbobbyorr says:

    Would the league eliminate head shots if someone was killed by one in a game? For sure.

    Why? Unlike the Brittany Cecil case, the threat of lawsuit in your hypothetical scenario is mitigated by the fact that the victim is a partner of the league. Both the NHL & NHLPA have a vested interest in a game whose marketing appeal rests largely on its’ reputation for players teetering on the brink of serious damage. Does the revenue stream (the paying fan) care if the risk is a concussion or an ACL?

    Does it really matter if the death is delayed by a few years?

    Well, the flippant answer is: he won’t get a trophy named after him as easily as he would had he cracked his skull in-game . . . . but since you’re probably fishing for loftier philosophical responses, I won’t say that.

    What kind of risks can we expect players to take to entertain us?

    Whichever ones they voluntarily choose to take, in order to earn the ginormous salaries they’ve been voluntarily pursuing for years.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. If the players want lesser risks, they’ll have to tradeoff the lower box office (& lower salary cap) that will accompany a kinder, gentler NHL. Another tradeoff to be considered is to reduce the number of violent head-hunting incidents by eliminating the instigator rule. A punch to the (enforcer’s) face while standing still is a better concussion risk than a (slighted) opponents’ elbow purposely carried too high as you collide in high-speed pursuit of a loose puck into a corner.

  5. beingbobbyorr says:

    but since you’re probably fishing for loftier philosophical responses, I won’t say that.

    Sorry for the contradiction. Must be my post-concussion symptoms kicking in.

  6. Stevieboy777 says:

    NFL Concussion Expert Recognized at 2008 FIFA Concussion Summit

    Patriot’s Dentist offers innovative mouth guard to help prevent concussions.

    Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) November 11, 2008 — Paula Duffy, National Sports Examiner for Examiner.com and regular contributor to The Huffington Post wrote an article (‘If a Simple Mouth Guard Can Prevent Concussions, Why Isn’t the NFL All Over It?’) that has ignited interest in and directed attention towards ways to reduce or prevent the alarming number of sports-related concussions, especially in the National Football League.

    Duffy’s column in the Examiner.com (www.Examiner.com) expressing concern for St. Louis Rams quarterback Trent Green and his return to the field after suffering two concussions in one calendar year, including one at the most severe level identified by medical professionals, elicited an informative phone call from Mahercor Laboratories, LLC. Headed up by the New England Patriot’s team dentist for more than two decades, Dr. Gerald Maher, Mahercor Laboratories (www.mahercorlabs.com) has developed an innovative mouth guard, The Maher Mouth Guard, which aids in the prevention of concussions for all athletes participating in contact sports, from professionals to youth players.

    href=”http://www.mahercorlabs.com/” alt=”Link to website”>While a concussion policy in the league has been instituted to prevent players from being forced back onto the field without regard to their health, prevention seems to be the solution in the long run, at least to me
    Dr. Maher says that the current NFL-approved helmet chin strap directly contributes to concussions that arise from a blow to the jaw. It compacts the end of the jawbone against the skull and increases the likelihood of the bone striking the temporal lobe of the brain, increasing the symptoms of dizziness, the sensation of seeing stars and headaches commonly known as a “ding.”

    The Maher Mouth Guard helps reduce the chances of suffering from a concussion. The implementation of this properly-fitted mouth guard with the prescribed thickness separates the mandible (lower jaw) from the maxilla (upper jaw). This limits the chance of obtaining a concussion via a direct blow to the jaw. This, as well as wearing properly fitted protective head gear and chin straps allows for the utmost protection from dangerous head trauma.

    Duffy’s articles in the Examiner.com and Huffington Post center on the questions surrounding the seemingly inexplicable lack of interest by the NFL to study and approve Dr. Maher’s product which is already successfully used by the New England Patriots, numerous high school and college athletic programs, individual NFL players and a number of boxing, hockey and lacrosse professionals.

    A seven year old NFL study with data that is even older (1996-2001) cites an incidence of .41 concussions per game every week during the football season. Duffy’s concern is for players not aware of the anecdotal evidence about the Maher Mouth Guard waiting for the league or their union to give the nod to a product for on-field use. Duffy believes solutions such as those offered by Mahercor Laboratories should be immediately evaluated for use by athletes at risk.

    Things may in fact be starting to happen. Researchers recently presented statistical evidence (http://www.mahercorlabs.com/studies.htm) of athletes treated for Temporomandibular (jaw) Disorders (TMD) prior to the fitting of the (Maher) orthotic appliance at the largest collection of concussion experts in the world, the 2008 FIFA International Conference on Concussion in Sport in Zurich Switzerland. This may be the forum needed to fully understand the relevance and benefits of these procedures.

    “While a concussion policy in the league has been instituted to prevent players from being forced back onto the field without regard to their health, prevention seems to be the solution in the long run, at least to me,” stated Duffy.

    Since its development, no NFL Player wearing any products in The Mahercor Laboratories product line has ever succumbed to a concussion from a blow to the jaw.www.mahercor.com

  7. Dennis says:

    I think that both hockey and football open the door to reduced lifespan, but we have to remember that there are people who live very long lives in duration as a result of modern medicine practices who are brain injured. Brain injury is not universally fatal and some injuries are more life threatening in terms of their potential to end a lifespan prematurely. A brain aneurism is case in point. Significant blows to the head could trigger a brain aneurism to form as a result of a weakening of the blood vessels. Another scenaria is a person with vessel malformations in the brain starts playing sports and the multiple blows from the sport is the trigger for something that was going to happen regardless of playing or not playing sports. So, we have to take into account the fact that sometimes people are more succeptible to injuries and premature death prior to playing sports or the sport itself could cause injuries that would exist without the sport.

    Regardless of the chicken or the egg, sports are rough on the body and multiple blows or injuries has an increased risk of causing medical conditions that could cripple or cause premature death. There is also the risk that non-physical losses such as lost games could trigger significant depression and or anxiety and that this could trigger physical losses or suicide. The high stress of performance sports comes with a psychological cost that is not seen on an MRI. In fact psychological losses could lead to overexcertion or injury further crippling the player psychologically and physically.

    Athletes know their bodies better than most and also know how to train to prevent injury and even dsease. Athletes are not all the same and some are healthier than others due to the nature of their sport, position, and training. Psychological factors are important in terms of predicting injury because of the intense pressure on winning games and achieving positive statistics. I suggest that if you pursue the win at all costs, the costs start to add up and your body pays the price. Our brains are made of material and so psychological issues could come up in the brain and consequently in the body as stress and disease, but this are of medicine is new and controversial because it can be abused, ie. psychosomatics.. But in terms of sports it may be useful to see if the stress of sports could actually lead to disease creation or aggravation. Interesting thoughts guys, thanks for the fodder.

  8. Marcelo Biffar says:

    concussions can be dangerous that is why you always need to have some x-ray or cat scans to make sure that it does not have some complications.^

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