CTE: A Parent’s Dilemma

A Parent’s Dilemma.

My son plays football. He likes the sport a lot and is very good at it. With only 2 years in the sport, he is playing as well, and better than children who have played football since they were 6 years old.

American football is a very violent sport requiring extensive gear to “help” protect the athletes. After each game, he is experiencing varying degrees of discomfort, aches and pains. I am an athlete myself. Amongst other sports, I played field hockey, and it certainly is not for wimps. However, besides boxing, no other sport debilitates its players’ brains and ability to function as much as football does.

Yes, we all die at some point. Yes, nobody is guaranteed a long life or good health. But before you get all protective about football because you love it so much, go and interview family members of a person dealing with a traumatic brain injury, dementia, alzheimer, etc. Ask them, if you knew for certain that engaging in a particular activity would cause your loved one to be in this state what would you have done?

I have talked to many ‘football parents’ who are mostly dismissive of the violent nature of the game. Some parents have even gone so far as to personally invest in higher quality “safer” helmets for their children, but never considered just pulling them from the sport.madu and thumb Dads live vicariously through their sons (and now some daughters – girls are starting to play football too), mothers swell with pride at their children’s accomplishments, the lure of adoring fans, football scholarships, prestige and eventually NFL big bucks beckons us all and in the process we dismiss the growing mountain of evidence that football exacts a high toll.

I am attaching an interview of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the physician who diagnosed and named CTE. His sister and I are childhood friends and he is also a friend of mine. I encourage all football parents to read/watch his interview. Go and research CTE including the latest stories on Tony Dorsett, Bret Favre and a slew of football greats.

I am very disturbed in my spirit. I love my son. My son loves football. We have some decisions to make.

Madu Eneli after his game yesterday. They won 46-12. He had a ‘sweet’ interception which he ran in for a touchdown that was later nullified by a penalty. Notice the bandaged thumb. He had an x-ray this morning and his thumb is broken. He came back into the game with the bandaged thumb and scored another touchdown. He was cheered on. I didn’t even realize he had hurt his hand. Is this wisdom?

Here is a link to Dr. Omalu’s interview. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/league-of-denial/the-frontline-interview-dr-bennet-omalu/#seg5

Hear from others at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/oral-history/league-of-denial/ — withKenechukwu Eneli and Madu Eneli.