Tag Archives: Mike Webster

Degeneration of the Central Nervous System

This is from the New York Times

Two months ago, Boston University researchers found that some deceased athletes who had been found to have A.L.S. in fact had a different disease that, the doctors said, caused similar degeneration of the central nervous system. That discovery, bolstered by data that suggested that N.F.L. players had been found to have A.L.S. at rates about eight times higher than normal, led the researchers to link the players’ condition with athletic brain trauma.

The N.F.L. and the players union said in a release that players with A.L.S., similar to those with dementia, do not “need to demonstrate that the condition was caused by their participation in the NFL.”

Asked whether the program implies a connection between football and the conditions, the league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail: “It does not address the issue.”

You have 300 pound athletes who can run a 40 yard dash in under 5 seconds colliding in a very violent matter.  While there has always been speed demons (I was stunned when I heard that Deion Sanders ran a 40 in 4.1 seconds and Chris Johnson has had runs this season that have been 20% faster than other running backs covering the same ground), there are more big fast guys then ever before.  Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers o-line under Chuck Noll, they were all around 260 pounds.  Now there are linemen who are 100 pounds heavier than they are.  Even the “Fridge” is no longer considered to be that big of a lineman.  A couple miles and more weight added to the closing speed of any collision does a lot of damage and I think that is what we are seeing happen in the NFL.  Players are bigger, stronger and while equipment is better (especially helmets), it is also lighter.

I am not sure what you do about it other than widening the field (that won’t happen).  While the league is wise to crack down on helmet to helmet hits, how many concussions have we seen that came from hitting the turf really hard or just look at Mike Webster and see what can happen to those guys in the trenches.

How different are dog fighting and professional football?

Chargers vs. Dolphins - Used under Licence by Creative Commons

Malcolm Gladwell asks some uncomfortable questions about America’s Game.

At the core of the C.T.E. research is a critical question: is the kind of injury being uncovered by McKee and Omalu incidental to the game of football or inherent in it? Part of what makes dogfighting so repulsive is the understanding that violence and injury cannot be removed from the sport. It’s a feature of the sport that dogs almost always get hurt. Something like stock-car racing, by contrast, is dangerous, but not unavoidably so.

After you are done reading that article, check out a series of articles on ESPN on what happened to Pittsburgh Steeler legend, Mike Webster.

Former All-Pro Pittsburgh Steeler Center, Mike Webster When he was finished, Webster had broken most of his fingers, suffered permanent damage to five vertebrae, and effectively ruined his knees, right shoulder and right heel. More troubling were the constant headaches that began to dog him in his last few seasons with the Steelers. The record books dutifully note his 245 regular-season games, but there were nearly 100 more, taking his 19 playoff games and more than 75 preseason games into account. Factor in the grueling training camps in Latrobe, Pa., and practices throughout the season, and it’s probable that Webster endured more than 25,000 violent collisions.

Webster’s oldest son, Colin, tells the story of the doctor, who, upon examining an MRI of Webster’s, asked if he had been in a car accident.

"Yeah," the old center said, "about 350,000 car accidents."

Despite this, Webster was never treated by team doctors for a concussion, according to medical records submitted in the case. The Steelers’ trainers, too, note he never complained of concussion symptoms. Still, it is probable, based on discussions with doctors and former players, that Webster suffered a significant number of head injuries during his career that today would be classified as concussions.