CTE and the NFL: Is the Risk Worth the Reward?


On a cold night in Sept. 1920, 14 men sat inside a car dealership in Canton Ohio hammering out the details for an agreement to form the first professional football league. Eventually they all agreed, and unanimously decided on Jim Thorpe as the first president of the Association.

Now, nearly 100 years later, the NFL is bigger than they ever thought possible. Last year, they reported income of over $13 billion and which is expected to grow to $25 billion by 2025.

The league, as flushed with cash as it is, has its fair share of problems, namely, player safety.

Just recently, Dr. Ann McKee observed the brains of 111 former NFL football players, finding that 110 of them had CTE.

CTE is often found in the brains of former military and athletes resulting from repetitive brain trauma. It causes memory loss and as it progresses can later even cause dementia.

It should be noted, that the results in the tests of the 111 brains of football players may be biased to some extent. The brains were donated in part because the families began seeing signs of CTE. While this is true, the results of the testing are still pretty damning.

However, is the NFL doing enough to combat head injuries associated with the sport? Just last September the league pledged $100 million towards research to make the game safer, which includes $60 million towards technological development for better equipment, and $40 Million towards medical research into the effects of head injuries.

Many fans don’t believe that their efforts are sincere, “I don’t think they’re doing enough,” said football fan and Mount Juliet local, Braylan Belew. “They could be doing more to find a solution.”

Just recently the ZERO1 helmet made its debut in the NFL. The helmet features a soft outer shell with a core designed to absorb the impact of the collisions. 25 teams have already ordered them, including several Texans player that wore them during a preseason game versus the Patriots.

Many, however, believe that there has been no connection made yet, including Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who called it “absurd” to think that a definitive link has been made.

Either way, the problems will be there for NFL stars of the past, “It is not easy watching the heroes of my youth struggle with day to day activities,” said Jeff Woodard, a local football fan. “Had player safety been a priority 30 years ago, we would be in a much better position today.”

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