They Started Playing Football as Young as 6. They Died in Their Teens and Twenties With Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.)

Kassie Bracken, John Branch, Ben Laffin, Rebecca Lieberman, and Joe Ward, The New York Times, They Started Playing Football as Young as 6. They Died in Their Teens and Twenties With Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.), Thursday, 16 November 2023: “They all died young. Most played football. Only a few came close to reaching the pros. But like hundreds of deceased N.F.L. players — including the Pro Football Hall of Famers Mike Webster, Junior Seau and Ken Stabler — they, too, had C.T.E., the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head. For now, it can be positively diagnosed only posthumously. The brains of Wyatt and 151 other young contact-sport athletes, both men and women, are part of a study recently released by researchers at Boston University. Researchers examined 152 brains of contact-sport athletes who died before turning 30. Donations came from families seeking answers. Of the 152 athletes studied, more than 40% had C.T.E. These are just some of the 63 young athletes who later died with C.T.E. Most played at no higher than the high school or college level. Of the 63, 48 played football. The main sports for the other athletes in the study who had C.T.E. included hockey, soccer and wrestling.”

Out of Balance: An IndyStar investigation into USA Gymnastics

Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia, Tim Evans, Robert Scheer (Photographer), and Steve Berta (Editor), Out of Balance: An IndyStar investigation into USA Gymnastics. The Indianapolis Star, This series began on Thursday, 4 August 2016. “In March 2016, IndyStar began investigating USA Gymnastics – one of America’s most prominent youth sports organizations, and the governing body for the U.S. Olympic team. The investigation revealed that USA Gymnastics has followed a policy of not reporting all sexual abuse allegations against its coaches. That practice has enabled coaches to continuing preying on children despite repeated warning signs. IndyStar also has revealed a culture within the gymnastics community that has allowed coaches to shift from gym to gym, again despite warnings of inappropriate behavior. The investigation also provided the first comprehensive look at the pervasiveness of the problem, revealing that at least 368 gymnasts have alleged sexual abuse over the past 20 years. IndyStar also brought to light accusations of sexual abuse by the former team doctor [Larry Nassar] for USA Gymnastics. That doctor has since been arrested on charges of criminal sexual conduct and child pornography. USA Gymnastics has hired an attorney to examine its internal practices. That review is ongoing.” Update: Christine Hauser and Maggie Astor, The Larry Nassar Case and What Comes Next, The New York Times,  Thursday, 25 January 2018. “Lawrence G. Nassar, the former physician for the American gymnastics team, was sentenced on Jan. 24 to 40 to 175 years in prison for sex crimes. It capped more than a week of victim impact statements by young women and teenagers who described how, as aspiring athletes, they were sent to Dr. Nassar at gymnastics camps, gyms, his home and the Michigan State University clinic. For decades, he molested athletes under the guise of medical treatment.”

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Whisked Out of Jail, and Back to the N.F.L.

Steve Eder, Whisked Out of Jail, and Back to the N.F.L. Nowhere to Turn: First of Two Articles. The New York Times, 16 November 2014. And N.F.L. Was Family, Until Wives Reported Domestic Abuse. Nowhere to Turn: Second of Two Articles, The New York Times, 17 November 2014. “Even after sheriff’s deputies arrived at her Weston, Fla., home, Kristen Lennon remained in the bathroom, afraid to leave. Minutes earlier, she had fled there for safety as she called 911, telling the operator that her fiancé [Phillip Merling, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound defensive end for the Miami Dolphins] had thrown her on the bed and hit her in the face and head. She was two months pregnant…. Mr. Merling was booked on charges of aggravated domestic battery on a pregnant woman. Almost all inmates are required to leave the jail through the public front door and arrange their own transportation home, but Mr. Merling was granted an unusual privilege: He was escorted out a rear exit by a deputy, evading reporters. The commander, who was off duty and in uniform, drove Mr. Merling in an unmarked car to the Dolphins’ training complex 20 minutes away. After Mr. Merling met with team officials, the commander drove him home to get his belongings — even though a judge had ordered Mr. Merling to “stay away” and avoid any potential contact with Ms. Lennon.”

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A Star Player [Jameis Winston] Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department and Florida State University

Walt Bogdanich, A Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation. The New York Times, 16 April 2014. “Early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she had been raped by a stranger somewhere off campus after a night of drinking at a popular Tallahassee bar called Potbelly’s. As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear. For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football. Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.”

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League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, Steve Fainaru, and Mark Fainaru-Wada, 2013

League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”FRONTLINE reveals the hidden story of the NFL and brain injuries.”

Excerpt from documentary:

NARRATOR: The league[NFL] had its own doctor review [Mike] Webster’s [Pittsburgh Steelers legend] case.

BOB FITZSIMMONS: The NFL had not only hired an investigator to look into this, they also hired their own doctor and said, “Hey, we want to evaluate Mike Webster.”

NARRATOR: Dr. Edward Westbrook examined him.

MARK FAINARU-WADA, FRONTLINE/ESPN: Dr. Westbrook concurs with everything that the four other doctors have found and agrees that absolutely, there’s no question that Mike Webster’s injuries are football-related and that he appears to be have significant cognitive issues, brain damage, as a result of having played football.

NARRATOR: The NFL retirement board had no choice. They granted Webster monthly disability payments.

DOCUMENT: —”has determined that Mr. Webster is currently totally and permanently disabled.”

NARRATOR: And buried in the documents, a stunning admission by the league’s board— football can cause brain disease.

DOCUMENT: —”indicate that his disability is the result of head injuries he suffered as a football player.”

BOB FITZSIMMONS: The NFL acknowledges that repetitive trauma to the head in football…can cause a permanent disabling injury to the brain.

NARRATOR: The admission would not be made public until years later, when it was discovered by the Fainaru brothers.

MARK FAINARU-WADA: And that was a dramatic admission back in 2000. And in fact, when you talk about that later with Fitzsimmons, he describes that as the sort of proverbial smoking gun.

NARRATOR: It was now in writing. The NFL’s own retirement board linked playing football and dementia. At the time, it was something the league would not admit publicly. And Webster felt he’d never received the acknowledgment that his years in the NFL had caused his problems.

PAM WEBSTER: Mike would call this his greatest battle. He’d say it was like David and Goliath, over and over, because it was. He was taking on something that was bigger than him. He took on this battle for the right reasons. He was the right person to do it. Unfortunately, it cost us everything.

NARRATOR: Just two years later, in 2002, Mike Webster died.



Does Football Have a Future? The N.F.L. and the concussion crisis

Ben McGrath, Does Football Have a Future? The N.F.L. and the concussion crisis. The New Yorker, 31 January 2011. “The violence of football has always been a matter of concern and the sport has seen periodic attempts at safety and reform. But recent neurological findings have uncovered risks that are more insidious.”

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Expert Ties Ex-[Football] Player’s Suicide to Brain Damage: The Serious Consequences of Concussions for Football Players

Alan Schwarz, Expert Ties Ex-Player’s Suicide to Brain Damage. The New York Times, 18 January 2007. “Since the former National Football League player Andre Waters killed himself in November, an explanation for his suicide has remained a mystery. But after examining remains of Mr. Waters’s brain, a neuropathologist in Pittsburgh is claiming that Mr. Waters had sustained brain damage from playing football and he says that led to his depression and ultimate death.” This is the first of over 100 articles Alan Schwarz has written in The New York Times exposing the dangers of concussions in football as of 24 April 2014.

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Football Year’s Death Harvest: Record Shows That Nineteen Football Players Have been Killed in 1905

Football Year’s Death Harvest. Chicago Daily Tribune, 26 November 1905. “Record shows that nineteen [football] players have been killed; one hundred thirty-seven hurt…. Chancellor MacCracken of New York [University] calls for the reform or abolition of the game. Urges Harvard to lead the way. Telegraphs President Eliot [of Harvard University] asking him to call a conference of College Presidents to act.”

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