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NIH Neuroscientists: Junior Seau Had Brain Disease Caused By Hits To the Head 240

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the that's-an-osha-violation-there dept.
McGruber writes "ABC News/ESPN broke the story that a team of scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) analyzed the brain tissue of renowned NFL linebacker Junior Seau and have concluded that the football player suffered a debilitating brain disease likely caused by two decades worth of hits to the head. From the article: 'In May 2012, Seau, 43 — football's monster in the middle, a perennial all-star and defensive icon in the 1990s whose passionate hits made him a dominant figure in the NFL — shot himself in the chest at his home in Oceanside, Calif., leaving behind four children and many unanswered questions.' As Slashdot earlier reported, more than 30 NFL players have in recent years been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition once known as 'punch drunk' because it affected boxers who had taken multiple blows to the head."
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NIH Neuroscientists: Junior Seau Had Brain Disease Caused By Hits To the Head

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  • by toadlife (301863) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:39PM (#42549739) Journal

    There exist sensors that can be placed into the helment and detect hits that are potentially damaging. The cost is actually nominal. The NFL should make these mandatory.

    http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2011/January/Helmet-Device-Could-Help-in-Concussion-Detection/ [cbn.com]

    • Problem is, if it gets triggered all the time...
    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:48PM (#42549901)

      They should remove the damn helmets and pads. The reason you get the huge hits is because of them. People hit harder because you have 'protection'. Which leads to worse injuries. It's like asking someone to run into a wall. If you run into the wall with a helmet you're going to hit harder because the bits that you can feel don't hurt as much but there is still internal damage. Compared to running straight into a wall unprotected. It's going to hurt your forehead probably before it hurts the brain.

      I'd love to see the same results from career Rugby players.

      • The NFL is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport. The collisions are fundamental to the way the game is played. Your theory works well for things like Boxing -> MMA, but the game would change entirely if this path was followed. There's too much invested by athletes, fans, businesses, and future stars to make such a black-and-white change.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          The NFL is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport. The collisions are fundamental to the way the game is played. Your theory works well for things like Boxing -> MMA, but the game would change entirely if this path was followed. There's too much invested by athletes, fans, businesses, and future stars to make such a black-and-white change.

          you know why it's a collision sport and not a cool sport about contact and guys doing cool parkour runs over others? BECAUSE OF THE FUCKING PADDINGS.

          remove 'em. people will adjust playstyles accordingly. certainly they wont be hitting their heads into each other for 20 years, they'll stop after one and the injuries are less hidden.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209)
        People make this argument against cushioned running shoes too (now that barefoot is the big thing) and I find it completely nonsensical. I can easily see where the padding might make you increase your activity to negate the padding, but I do not see that you would increase it so much as to be worse off than if the padding were not there. In the absence of data we are just playing thought experiments. If there is data that airbags, anti-lock brakes, or 4wd make cars less safe to due to overconfidence, tha
        • > If there is data that airbags, anti-lock brakes, or 4wd make cars less safe to due to overconfidence, that would be relevant.

          They do. Replace airbags with knives. People won't drive faster than 5 MPH and crashes will all but eliminated. Airbags make cars safer given the situation where people refuse to slow down.

          If people are going to drive 70 MPH then airbags make cars safer at 70 MPH. But if you include the scenario where people never go faster than 5 MPH then airbags would actually cause more damag

          • Replace airbags with knives

            It is called the windshield

            Seriously though, accidents happened a lot before air bags and even before seat belts and people didn't drive 5 mph because of it. Not all accidents are caused by something the driver did.

            • by ATMAvatar (648864)

              Not all accidents are caused by something the driver did.

              None of them are, in fact. Accidents are always caused by something the other driver did.

          • by afidel (530433)

            4WD actually has nothing to do with safety and has to do with grip.

            Such pure BS, the only two accidents I've had were due to lack of grip (hydroplaning), grip is control and control is necessary for safety.

            • 4wd doesn't have anything to do with hydroplaning.

              Let me rephrase that since you have obviously never used a 4WD vehicle. 4WD will assist in grip at low speeds to START moving. All vehicles already have four wheel braking. Four wheel drive won't help you slow down. It won't stop you from hydroplaning.

              • by Jedi Alec (258881)

                When your car starts to oversteer on a slippery surface, the very *last* thing you want to do is brake.

                You need traction on the road to keep the car under control, and 4WD gives you 2 more surfaces that can transfer power from the engine to the road.

                On a long hydroplane...you're pretty much screwed, but if you skip over a wet surface and end up on the tarmac at an angle to your vector, 4WD will help getting the car straight again.

          • by Lashat (1041424)

            Grip = Traction = Less Spin Outs in Rain and Ice.

        • by G-Man (79561) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @05:49PM (#42551453)

          Runners who use minimalist/no shoes generally use a forefoot/midfoot strike (the ball of the foot hits the ground first), while those with thickly padded shoes are usually heel-strikers.

          Heel strikers tend to run more upright, with the heel landing well forward of the runner's center of gravity, while fore/midfoot strikers lean more foreward, with the foot landing almost under the CG. It's like you are always just 'falling forward', with your feet catching you from falling on your face. It takes some getting used to, but the effect is much lower impact than heel striking.

          The reasoning is twofold: 1) If your foot lands well forward of your CG, you are effectively retarding your forward progress and increasing the force traveling up your legs, and 2) By striking with the heel, you remove the flexing of the foot and calf muscles as a shock absorber, and the force travels directly up the leg - right up into your knee. The padding in the heel of the shoe (and it's always the heels that are heavily padded) don't make up for the loss of the foot/calf system as a shock absorber.

          You can run using a fore/midfoot strike with a thickly padded shoe, but the thick heel just seems to get in the way.

      • by Desler (1608317) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @04:15PM (#42550349)

        You're joking, right?

        Concussion in Rugby is hidden epidemic [sciencedaily.com]

        Concerns rise over rugby concussion risk [bbc.co.uk]

        Concern at lack of rugby head injury reporting [bbc.co.uk]

        Rugby players urged to donate their brains to help head-injury research [scotsman.com]

        The saddest part is your bullshit got modded as interesting and insightful.

        • Can you provide any numbers that compare the rate of injuries? Just because concussions are a concern in rugby (as they are in any sport) doesn't mean that they are at rates higher than that of football.

          And per thousand hours of play I'd say that they're significantly less considering that the average NFL game has 11 minutes of action compared to a 90 minute Rugby game.

      • by gangien (151940)

        Do you understand why they added protection in the first place? It's the same with all those stupid macho arguments about football players wearing all that protection while rugby players don't and therefore are manly.

        here's the spoiler. it's because people died. Football is a collision sport, that is different from rugby and hockey, even though they certainly have some high speed collisions, it is not as constant.

        • by Radtastic (671622)
          Exactly this. If anyone wants a great read, check out :The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football [amazon.com]

          FTS: "In its infancy during the late nineteenth century, the game of football was still a work in progress that only remotely resembled the sport millions follow today. There was no common agreement about many of the game’s basic rules, and it was incredibly violent and extremely dangerous. An American version of rugby, this new game grew popular even as the number of casualties rose. Numerous
      • This is a common refrain of old school guys from before the helmet or facemask era. The game is simply too fast to remove helmets. You *might* slow down play a bit, but you won't stop the incidental head collisions that cause a lot of concussions (guys hitting their head on the turf, getting kneed, etc).

      • by LordNimon (85072)

        Without the padding, American football would be almost indistinguishable from rugby. Why not just rename the NFL to the NRL, and get rid of American football altogether? I would be in favor of that, but that's just not realistic.

    • by djlemma (1053860)

      What would the sensors actually accomplish? I'm just curious- it seems like they would be great for gathering data about how harmful the sport already is, but do you propose that mandatory in-game penalties should be imposed for hitting or being hit too hard? Mandatory player rest periods after hits? Maximum number of impacts per season?

      If it's used something like a dosimeter, where once a player got so many hits he would have to be sidelined, then I suppose a lot more linebackers would get to play in the

      • by afidel (530433)

        Sure, why not? What other industry do we allow free reign to cause known harm to their employees?

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          All the fighting sports?

          Boxing of various types.

          Wrestling of various types.

          Survival Contests (real ones, not reality TV shows).

      • How can you start the discussion that football is too dangerous to partake in by the millions. You cannot convincingly get across the point that this sport causes more suffering than joy created by spectating. This is what the sensors are for, gathering scientific data showing the causes of future mental issues. Then the discussion can begin.

        Stopping multiple concussions from occurring within a short time will stop unnecessary injury, as you suggest, so there will be immediate gains.

    • There exist sensors that can be placed into the helment and detect hits that are potentially damaging.

      If those are triggered then the damage is already done. More to the point if you are in a sport where that sort of thing is necessary, perhaps playing that sport isn't such a good idea. I have nothing particularly against american style football as a sport (heck I've taken boxing lessons) but if we're causing that much damage then maybe we should reconsider our entertainment choices.

    • There are also helmets which supposedly reduce the risk of concussions, but the NFL won't mandate them for some reason. They keep saying that they think for some reason that attempting to protect players would make them more liable in a lawsuit if a player still ended up with a concussion. That would only really be the case if the NFL false promised they are guaranteed to prevent concussions.

      But part of the problem is that many of these helmets are designed to help protect against the most violent blows, wh

      • The players are against the NFL controlling the equipment they choose. Its purely an issue caused by the NFLPA, the player's union. The NFL has tried to get that inserted but the NFLPA wants concessions if they do.

    • There exist sensors that can be placed into the helment and detect hits that are potentially damaging.

      WARNING! You just took a hit to the cranium that likely damaged your brain! Would you like to continue?

      Yea, fat lot of good it'll do to let them know they mind-fucked themselves after the fact...

      Something something ounce of prevention, something something pound of cure.

    • by xclr8r (658786)
      I saw an episode of Real Sports with Gumbel(sp?) where the NFL is reducing the number of practice days with full contact to reduce hits to the head. When the NCAA was asked to do the the same they balked. http://youtu.be/UKIYAtnLLOA?t=6s [youtu.be] NCAA is now being named in a class action lawsuit: http://oklahoma-criminal-defense.com/blog/2012/11/ncaa-named-in-head-injury-class-action/ [oklahoma-c...efense.com]
  • by djlemma (1053860) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:39PM (#42549741)
    It's a Tradition! [smbc-comics.com]
  • To all you haters who want to end football and say it's so horrible, tada, boxing reference right there, staring you in the face.

    a condition once known as 'punch drunk' because it affected boxers who had taken multiple blows to the head

    As opposed to the boxers that never get hit in the head in their entire career? The entire sport is giving each other concussions and you hear more complaints about the NFL than boxing these days. I think the loudest whiners are just soccer fans and/or people who don't like football.

    • by MichaelusWF (2225540) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:54PM (#42550001)
      Boxing used to be one of the biggest sports in the US, now it's a Vegas sideshow, and the whole "beating people retarded" problem is a pretty big reason why. It's not that people are ignoring boxing's problems, it's that they've already addressed them and the popularity of the sport has plummeted as a result. Most people don't want to box, it's hard to find people willing to fight for a pittance in return for guaranteed brain damage. (Note, by comparison, the popularity of MMA, which does not rely purely on knockouts to win -- you can still give someone brain damage, but it's not literally the only or even the easiest path to victory) Football, on the other hand, is something that a lot of people play starting as young as grade school. I've never seen a grade school boxing league, but I see ads for peewee football signups every year.
    • The entire sport is giving each other concussions and you hear more complaints about the NFL than boxing these days

      Not many people are in the sport of boxing. A few thousand nationwide maybe. Football on the other hand is wildly popular with participation counts likely in the millions. While your point is valid, we can prevent a lot more injuries by worrying about football.

    • It's not that people hate football. I honestly love to watch football. I grew up in Buffalo during Jim Kelly's prime. There was nothing finer than watching sixty minutes of hurry-up offense, believe me.

      But there's two things. One, the amount of litigation is about to go ballistic. The NFL is flush with cash and everyone knows it, and retirees and their widows everywhere are lawyering up.

      Two, no one in good conscience is going to let their kids go out for football anymore. No one. Would you let your

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:46PM (#42549865) Journal

    In fine Slashdot tradition, let's hear from 52 people telling us that correlation does not imply causation and that only people with brain trauma or predisposed to it play football.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Hentes (2461350)

      Well it does take an idiot to play it.
      Still better than the Slashdot tradition where instead of arguing against an opinion you simply restate it like it would somehow invalidate it.

      • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @04:07PM (#42550223) Journal
        Nope. It takes an idiot to not understand it, just like any other activity humans participate in.
        • by gl4ss (559668)

          it's still boring if you understand it. maybe even more so.

          seriously playing madden '91(or whatever year it was, ega graphics, dos) was kinda fun.

          watching it is much less so.

    • In fine Slashdot tradition, let's hear from 52 people telling us that correlation does not imply causation and that only people with brain trauma or predisposed to it play football.

      I've got a different argument.

      It's a dangerous sport and there are a multitude of ways the players can get seriously hurt. The players know that going in, and are willing to take on the risks for the rewards. What exactly is the problem?

    • In fine Slashdot tradition, let's hear from 52 people telling us that correlation does not imply causation and that only people with brain trauma or predisposed to it play football.

      Negative. I put it to you: Natural Selection will eventually correct for this. We pay them a lot, the star players are sexually and socially desirable.

      Eventually we'll grow thicker skulls and/or our brains will shrink to contain more fluid, much like a wood pecker's... Much in the same way that "tall dark and handsome" has lead to taller darker and more sexy humans... Now if we could just get on board with crotchless pants, all guys could finally grow giant cocks.

  • The only people who believe that repeated hits to the head is harmless are those whose livelihoods depend on the general populous repeatedly allowing themselves to be hit on the head. The only people who believe inhaling massive quantities of pollutants is harmless are those who livelihoods depend on the general population inhaling massive quantities of pollutants. The only people who believe eating high fat low nutritional foods on a regular basis is harmless are those whose livelihood depends on the gen
    • While you are correct - people's perceptions of gains / harms are amazingly enough, strongly biased by how much they stand to gain from the behavior, getting this message out to the general public time and time again is needed if the overall perception of those activities is to change.

      While American Football (Commercial Ball? Beer Ball?) will be the social core of many a small town for years to come, real football ('soccer') is slowly gaining respect and support in no small part because it is perceived as h

  • by schlachter (862210) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @03:49PM (#42549925)

    Interesting that he didn't shoot himself in the head. I wonder if that was a calculated move so that scientists could examine his brain to find the cause of his debilitating brain injuries?

    • by Desler (1608317)

      Yes, it was.

    • Seeing that he donated his brain to science before he killed himself, I think that's a fair assessment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Could be. According to Wikipedia, "Seau's death recalled the 2011 suicide of former NFL player Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest and left a suicide note requesting that his brain be studied for brain trauma.[31][32]" That could be where he got the idea. Seau didn't leave a note, though.

    • Another less famous player died in the same manner, but I believe he left a note saying to study his brain. Since this was in the same manner, it was believed Seau was trying to say the same thing.

    • He left a suicide note saying that's why he didn't shoot himself in the head.

  • Too bad the family didn't have doctors study what years of (alleged) steroid abuse did to him. Easier to point the finger at someone else, I suppose.
    • My suspicion has always been that steroids HAD to have something to do with this because 1.) only some players are affected and 2.) a body builder friend from college who told me about all his roid-raging friends. But, I think there've been recent studies showing no correlation.

    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      Think about the damage caused to OTHERS by the steroids that football players take.

      The hits are artificially made harder than "normal."

    • Too bad the family didn't have doctors study what years of (alleged) steroid abuse did to him. Easier to point the finger at someone else, I suppose.

      Don't need to, there's already a control group for that - baseball players.

      All the same steroid abuse as the NFL, minus the repeated head injuries.

  • It's inevitable that the game of 'football' is going to have to drastically change its rules to take away the traumatic brain injuries. It will start with high school football, then college, then the NFL. What school district or college can afford lawsuits over that? Maybe it will have to become flag football or, more likely, some sort of hybrid with limited blocking and tackling. Whatever results, though, the Football 2.0 rules will end the present situation where brain injuries are a certainty.

    • by FatAlb3rt (533682)
      How widespread is this certainty of yours? Probably more common with a guy who's been playing for a couple decades - including 10 yrs in the NFL - than the typical RB that only lasts 3 yrs.
  • What we need to do is remove the skull of football players and put more padding around the brain. There would be a new permanent skull-helmet placed over the brain-padding to protect from cuts and sharp edges. I'm sure all the football players will look rather strange with giant heads, but we would get used to it after a short while. On the plus side for the players, they will be very easy to recognize out in public, so their fame will go up even more.

  • by cellocgw (617879) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <wgcollec>> on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:50PM (#42558979) Journal

    I'm pretty much in the "eliminate helmets" camp, but also think that eliminating substitution, or requiring, say, 10 plays from scrimmage before a player can leave the field would help too. Right now, many players are on the field for one play and they know they'll be subbed out for the next play (different yards to first down or whatever), so they go all-out no matter what.
    If players had to control themselves so they could function for 10 straight plays, they might throttle back a bit. Plus it would force them to learn offense and defense, which I think would be a lot more interesting.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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