…even if they are not strong enough impacts to cause concussion, they multiply over time and create long term damage. Read on > > >
by: John Jasper
National Football League: Cincinnati receiver Chris Henry suffered from brain damage.
A West Virginia University researcher released disturbing findings after an analysis of Cincinnati Bengal’s receiver Chris Henry’s brain. Doctors performed microscopic tissue analysis of Henry’s brain which showed that Henry was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) prior to his tragic death.
Henry died at the age of 26 after he fell out of a pick-up truck which his fiancée was driving. The accident took place at a time when Chris and his fiancée were in the middle of a domestic dispute. It could not be established if Henry jumped or fell out of the back of the truck. It is suspected that brain damage might have played its part in accentuating Henry’s out of control behaviour that included five arrests in a 28-month span and possibly even his death.
Researchers believe that repeated head injuries can cause CTE even if the individual impacts don’t result in a concussion. Relatively low intensity impacts can cause proteins to accumulate which may cause CTE. Henry had no documented case of concussion through his years of playing college football or in his playing days with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“The brain floats freely in your skull”, said Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who is the co-director of the Brain Injury Research Institute (BIRI). “If you’re moving very quickly and suddenly stop, the brain bounces”, he said. Omalu said that in his opinion, Henry’s brain showed significant abnormalities for a 26-year-old and Henry exhibited signs of behavioural issues commonly associated with CTE. CTE affects that part of the brain which controls emotions.
Researchers also examined the brains of retired NFL players Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters and Justin Strzelzcyk, amongst others. Many similarities were found between Henry and the brains of Waters and Webster. Webster, who died in 2002, suffered brain damage to such an extent that after his retirement, he was unable to work. Waters committed suicide in 2007. The similarities are only more frightening, considering the fact that Henry did not take nearly as many hits to the head as others regularly did and his career still had a long way to go if it had not come to its untimely end.
Henry’s autopsy showed that his brain resembled that of an old man with dementia. Henry had been playing football since he was 12. BIRI researchers asked Henry’s mothers permission to examine his brain because he fit the behaviour profile for someone with CTE. Henry’s mother, of course, also had no idea either that her son was suffering from the disease. “I just thought it was part of the game,” she said. “So now that I know, it’s a big shock to me that this kind of thing can happen to someone”.
The only way to identify CTE at present is through brain tissue samples making it very difficult to put a number on how many current NFL players may be affected by the disease. The implications of finding on Henry’s brain, who suffered no documented concussion, cannot be anything except that brain damage in NFL has to be more extensive than we would have thought. Henry was the 22nd pro football player to be diagnosed with CTE.
Omalu said that he was not calling for a ban on the sport in the wake of his disturbing finding. Making a comparison of playing football with smoking, Omalu said that he simply wanted it to be known that profession football and the repeated impacts to the brain that come with playing the sport are dangerous to health and would affect mental health later in life.
Current NFL players were obviously shocked by the revelation. Sean Morey of the Seahawks claimed that the news was sobering. “You have to ask yourself how many are playing the game today that have this and don’t even know about it”, he said. Henry is the youngest and only active NFL player CTE has ever been discovered in.