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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ryan Freel was suffering from CTE

Former baseball star and Jacksonville native Ryan Freel was suffering from a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he committed suicide last year, his family announced Sunday at a mass honoring the Englewood graduate.

The report from the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and Sports Legacy Institute was presented to Freel’s mother and stepfather, Norma and Clark Vargas, and to representatives from Major League Baseball on Dec. 11 at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista.

There, evidence confirmed that Freel was suffering from Stage II CTE when he committed suicide on Dec. 22, 2012. The family learned of the findings on the same day that MLB announced that it approved a ban on home-plate collisions.

Freel, who retired in 2010 following an eight-year career in the majors, was reported to have suffered “nine or 10” concussions in his career. Clark Vargas said that the report on Freel will be published in a medical journal early next year.

“It’s a release in that there was a physical reason for what he did,” Clark Vargas said. “On the other side for me, Ryan fell through the cracks.”

Freel became the first baseball player to have his brain studied by the leading Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, and first to be diagnosed with the incurable disease that has been found predominantly in the brains of athletes who participate in contact sports such as football and boxing.

Thanks to CK.

Repoz Posted: December 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM | 113 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 15, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4618322)
Damn.
   2. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: December 15, 2013 at 12:45 PM (#4618324)
Now we'll get a congressional investigation.
   3. Publius Publicola Posted: December 15, 2013 at 01:12 PM (#4618347)
How did he get so many concussions playing baseball? If he was a catcher, maybe, but he was an outfielder most of the time.
   4. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 15, 2013 at 01:28 PM (#4618358)
This one data point gives us a strong correlation between CTE and "fan adoration based on crashing into walls".
   5. greenback calls it soccer Posted: December 15, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4618366)
Either that, or from crashing into things while driving on the wrong side of the road.
   6. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: December 15, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4618367)
I would imagine, sans any evidence whatsoever, that CTE in baseball would spike in catchers and middle infielders, then curve down to outfielders (notably the scrappy gamers who don't care about walls) and then fade off the curve with pitchers and corner infielders.
   7. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: December 15, 2013 at 01:55 PM (#4618384)
As a reflex, Roger Goodell just fined somebody.
   8. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 01:58 PM (#4618388)
Kevin: Freel was pretty well known for hurting himself running into walls and/or other outfielders, wasn't he?
   9. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: December 15, 2013 at 02:02 PM (#4618390)
and then fade off the curve with pitchers and corner infielders.

And Bobby Abreu.
   10. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: December 15, 2013 at 02:17 PM (#4618395)
I laughed, Pat.
   11. Tricky Dick Posted: December 15, 2013 at 02:31 PM (#4618398)
I recall watching some Reds' games when the broadcasters would say that Freel has a "football mentality" and plays with no regard for his body. He also played second base where collisions can occur on DPs, he was hit by a pitch 12 times in 2004,and I seem to recall that he made a lot of diving catches in the outfield, which can result in concussions. The stated number of concussions doesn't seem unrealistic.
   12. Bruce Markusen Posted: December 15, 2013 at 02:57 PM (#4618408)
Every time a second baseman or shortstop tries to turn a double play, he exposes himself to risk. All it takes is a spike rising and a middle infielder having to crouch down for a low throw to create a possible collision with the head. That coupled, with all of the times he dove into the outfield or ran into a wall could have easily added up to nine or ten collisions.
   13. puck Posted: December 15, 2013 at 02:59 PM (#4618411)
I wonder how many people out there who were not pro athletes have CTE from high school and college sports? And in what proportion is CTE causing impaired brain function, and to what degree?
   14. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 03:49 PM (#4618437)
I wonder how many people out there who were not pro athletes have CTE from high school and college sports? And in what proportion is CTE causing impaired brain function, and to what degree?

here are just some of the control groups you would need:

people who played football and didn't commit suicide

people who didn't play football and committed suicide

people who neither played football nor committed suicide.

until we get the frequency of CTE from these groups (from different ages) any of the conclusions re Freel-Duerson-Junior Seau are meaningless
   15. Yellow Tango Posted: December 15, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4618441)
I remember watching baseball blooper videos when PE was rained out in middle school (I'm just now realizing how sad that is). I always kind of loved it.

There's way less joy in seeing someone run into a wall to catch a baseball at this point.
   16. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 15, 2013 at 04:05 PM (#4618443)
Freel was part of a nasty collision in May 2007 when he and Norris Hopper ran into each other while chasing a deep fly. Freel’s head caught Hopper’s elbow just as the ball found Freel’s glove (Hopper snuck the ball back into Freel's glove, and the batter was called out). Freel knocked his head against the track when he fell. I don't remember if he got up on his own volition, but he wasn't moving there for a few moments. He missed over a month.

He was very sensitive in talking about his concussions. He once laid into Hal McCoy after McCoy had asked his dad about the injuries, saying that McCoy could be cutting his career short. A damn shame Freel couldn't get more help in conquering his demons.
   17. I Am Not a Number Posted: December 15, 2013 at 04:15 PM (#4618447)
I wonder how many people out there who were not pro athletes have CTE from high school and college sports?

In the League of Denial documentary, based on the book of the same name, it was shown that the brains of a couple of high school athletes displayed signs of CTE.
   18. Mayor Blomberg Posted: December 15, 2013 at 04:35 PM (#4618464)
Freel was also hit in the head with a pickoff throw while on second on 20 April 2009 and went on the DL before being traded from BAL to KC.
   19. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:06 PM (#4618477)
people who played football and didn't commit suicide

people who didn't play football and committed suicide

people who neither played football nor committed suicide.

until we get the frequency of CTE from these groups (from different ages) any of the conclusions re Freel-Duerson-Junior Seau are meaningless


The thing is that we have these. People died from all sorts of stuff before twenty years ago, and their brains were highly studied, for different reasons. The thing is that some high school athlete (I'm blanking on his name, sadly) killed himself and when they autopsied him, his brain was remarkable-looking for one so young.

Yes, a controlled study of these types of people can be very illuminative, and I'm sure it's happening right now. But that doesn't mean that CTE isn't a real thing, and that the early evidence points to participation in concussive activities as a probable cause.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:10 PM (#4618480)
don't forget head first dives and slides.

I assume med schools still have plenty of dissectable brains lying around. you don't really need a full factorial design to know if something is going on
   21. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:10 PM (#4618481)
recall watching some Reds' games when the broadcasters would say that Freel has a "football mentality" and plays with no regard for his body. He also played second base where collisions can occur on DPs, he was hit by a pitch 12 times in 2004,and I seem to recall that he made a lot of diving catches in the outfield, which can result in concussions. The stated number of concussions doesn't seem unrealistic.


You know, sometimes people are just mentally ill and there's no Reason. I know that's unsettling for people who always need to assure themselves that there is a Deeper Meaning to everything and that life and death and illness isn't just random sometimes.

It's good to study these head trauma issues, obviously. But proclaiming that we know that if Freel or Junior Seau were accountants rather than professional athletes they'd likely be alive today and living normal lives free of mental issues is simply unfounded.

   22. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:27 PM (#4618484)
If Freel and Seau were informed that this is a possible consequence of professional athletics, they might have made the decisions to go into it anyway. Their families are financially set up for years, and CTE clearly doesn't happen to everyone in these sports. What I find unbearably sad is that this is probably happening to high school and college athletes, who get not a dollar for their labors.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:31 PM (#4618487)
But proclaiming that we know that if Freel or Junior Seau were accountants rather than professional athletes they'd likely be alive today and living normal lives free of mental issues is simply unfounded.


"Unfounded" seems too strong. Aren't there doctors that proclaim a link between CTE and suicide? Are they just BSing?

I mean, of course nobody can assert with perfect accuracy that they would be otherwise healthy, but that doesn't seem like something to get too fussy about. There aren't a lot of things we can be certain about.
   24. dejarouehg Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:41 PM (#4618492)
What I find unbearably sad is that this is probably happening to high school and college athletes, who get not a dollar for their labors.


What I find sadder is parents whose kid has already had 3 concussions (and have none of the sterotypical financial hardships that go along with so many young athletes from terrible family circumstances) have no problem with the child continuing to play HS football in the slim chance he may get a scholarship to a D2- or D3- school. (Even if they don't give scholarships, they do get athletic stipend.)

And you know what, at some point the kids have to start making responsible decisions. My kid was being badgered by the HS coach into playing QB for his team, which on its best day is putrid. He really wanted to play but figured out that the likelihood of a 260lb kid driving his pitching shoulder into the turf was not conducive to pitching after high school.

   25. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:45 PM (#4618497)
I don't know if CTE will be the thing, but this is how football will end in this country. It'll become very clear that these are gladiators fighting for our entertainment, to the long-term detriment of their bodies and minds. Middle-class parents will not allow their precious babies to play organized football, and the NFL will become a ghettoized sport. Once it is not seen as a virtuous social mobility platform, it will quickly enter the same death spiral as professional boxing.
   26. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:52 PM (#4618501)
But proclaiming that we know that if Freel or Junior Seau were accountants rather than professional athletes they'd likely be alive today and living normal lives free of mental issues is simply unfounded.


In addition to being unfounded, it is also un-proclaimed.
   27. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 05:56 PM (#4618503)
"Unfounded" seems too strong. Aren't there doctors that proclaim a link between CTE and suicide? Are they just BSing?


Well, for starters, this is right from the full article:

Researchers have cautioned that CTE in and of itself can’t be totally blamed when athletes take their own lives. Research is still in its early stages and underlying issues such as mental illnesses, substance abuse issues, genetics, among other factors must also be taken into account.
   28. Random Transaction Generator Posted: December 15, 2013 at 06:10 PM (#4618510)
In last night's Montreal/New York NHL game, notorious tough-guy George Parros got into a scrap. He took a nasty punch in the chin, and dropped to the ice. He was noticeably woozy when he tried to stand up, and when he skated to the penalty box. While he was sitting in there (after telling his opponent in the fight that he was "okay"), the referee skated over and told him to leave the box and go to the dressing room to get checked out for a concussion (he had suffered one earlier in the season when he struck his head against the ice while wrestling/fighting with someone).

It was the first time I'd ever seen an official for any sport step in and make a decision about a player's health that was counter to that player's own decision, and enforce it.

   29. dejarouehg Posted: December 15, 2013 at 06:12 PM (#4618512)
I don't know if CTE will be the thing, but this is how football will end in this country. It'll become very clear that these are gladiators fighting for our entertainment , to the long-term detriment of their bodies and minds.


You are correct, although I really don't find it that entertaining anymore. I'll take a good Prime 9 or Clubhouse Confidential over the NFL anytime at this point. The NFL is like golf was when I was a kid; background noise while I'm doing work where I look up at the TV every 20 minutes or so.

Middle-class parents will not allow their precious babies to play organized football, and the NFL will become a ghettoized sport.
I think this is already occurring. I don't understand the implied condescension in the word "precious." Perhaps this is the difference between educated vs. uneducated or desperate vs. not desperate. No, on second thought, it's educated vs. uneducated.
   30. dejarouehg Posted: December 15, 2013 at 06:14 PM (#4618515)
In last night's Montreal/New York NHL game, notorious tough-guy George Parros got into a scrap. He took a nasty punch in the chin, and dropped to the ice. He was noticeably woozy when he tried to stand up, and when he skated to the penalty box. While he was sitting in there (after telling his opponent in the fight that he was "okay"), the referee skated over and told him to leave the box and go to the dressing room to get checked out for a concussion (he had suffered one earlier in the season when he struck his head against the ice while wrestling/fighting with someone).

It was the first time I'd ever seen an official for any sport step in and make a decision about a player's health that was counter to that player's own decision, and enforce it.


CTE is also "apparently" rampant amongst some NHL goons and is attributed to the premature deaths of some. (I don't follow hockeyl have only read anecdotally.)

Haven't heard of a lot of boxers committing suicide though. Then again, does boxing still exist?
   31. PreservedFish Posted: December 15, 2013 at 06:16 PM (#4618516)
Well, for starters, this is right from the full article:

Researchers have cautioned that CTE in and of itself can’t be totally blamed when athletes take their own lives. Research is still in its early stages and underlying issues such as mental illnesses, substance abuse issues, genetics, among other factors must also be taken into account.


Is anyone disagreeing with this? It's obviously a complicated issue.
   32. dejarouehg Posted: December 15, 2013 at 06:21 PM (#4618524)
Saw Freel make a play against the Cubs in a late 2003 season game where he laid out facing outfield wall right in front of us. Had never heard of him but never forgot him after this play. Sad.
   33. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: December 15, 2013 at 06:22 PM (#4618525)
One of the social forces in the country right now is that parents think (logically enough, I suppose) that their children have unique wants/needs from every other child, and that society doesn't matter. This manifests itself in all sorts of things, including that some parents are willing to overlook a hundred years of science and not allow their children to be immunized, putting other parents' children in needless jeopardy. This is happening not just on the fringes, but in the mainstream.

"precious" is a value judgment, and possibly a condescending one. But it also tries to implicate that parents will think that football is "for the other boys" or whatever, and just keep their individual children home. This won't be an organized resistance, just a series of quiet conversations around the kitchen table. But, organized or not, this movement will keep kids with other options away from football. As for organization, I think that we'll see many DIII schools divest themselves from football as the costs become clear.
   34. Loren F. Posted: December 15, 2013 at 07:17 PM (#4618544)
#33, I know you're not actually equating the Jenny Mccarthy anti-immunization idiots with parents who, based on science, choose to dissuade their boys from playing football. But they're not even roughly equivalent in any sense (moral, economic, sociological, etc.). However, I don't think the NFL needs to worry about its viability for a long, long time. Doesn't the popularity of Ultimate Fighting suggest that there's plenty of appetite for gladiatorial combat? And Ultimate Fighting seems pretty racially mixed...
   35. bookbook Posted: December 15, 2013 at 07:25 PM (#4618547)
"Middle-class parents will not allow their precious babies to play organized football, and the NFL will become a ghettoized sport."

Had I wanted to play football in High School in the mid-eighties, my parents wouldn't have allowed it. Now, it's reasonable to note that I would have been the scrawniest guy on the field (including the goal posts). But honestly, it's been decades since many parents have felt that full-contact football was a safe and healthy activity for their children.

Have the numbers of parents who get it gone up? Probably only marginally.
   36. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 08:03 PM (#4618555)
Those of you who think parents will refuse to let their kids play football clearly aren't from Texas or Ohio or Pennsylvania.

It continues to be true up to this moment that if you want to find the guy in any high school who's banging all the cheerleaders, ask who the football team's quarterback is.
   37. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 08:09 PM (#4618558)
Had I wanted to play football in High School in the mid-eighties, my parents wouldn't have allowed it.


Same here, in the late 80s. And my mother didn't want us to play soccer because she was worried about trauma from heading the ball.
   38. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 08:17 PM (#4618560)
You guys are so precious. Try talking your parents into letting you take up boxing.
   39. Tippecanoe Posted: December 15, 2013 at 09:05 PM (#4618580)

It continues to be true up to this moment that if you want to find the guy in any high school who's banging all the cheerleaders, ask who the football team's quarterback is


In order to determine this for sure, you will need the following control groups:

- Football players who are banging all the cheerleaders

- Football players who are not banging all the cheerleaders

- Non-football players

- Tim Tebow
   40. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 09:21 PM (#4618588)
Those of you who think parents will refuse to let their kids play football clearly aren't from Texas or Ohio or Pennsylvania.

It continues to be true up to this moment that if you want to find the guy in any high school who's banging all the cheerleaders, ask who the football team's quarterback is.


In a sane society, that wouldn't really influence parents to risk the health of their sons. But, I know we're through the looking glass already.
   41. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: December 15, 2013 at 09:46 PM (#4618593)
#33, I know you're not actually equating the Jenny Mccarthy anti-immunization idiots with parents who, based on science, choose to dissuade their boys from playing football. But they're not even roughly equivalent in any sense (moral, economic, sociological, etc.).


I appreciate the benefit of the doubt, Loren, but it's larger than that. I see a society in which any "box" that children could fit into is seen as a limit by the parents. "Special Education" is an endangered concept today as many parents think that their child is dissimilar to the others in that classification and need their very own educational help. You see this in homeschooling of special needs children.

Parents also don't worry about their children adjusting to society, but depending on society to adjust to their children. If you've been to a shopping mall at the same time as parents and kids, you understand this.

Look, I didn't want to spell all this out, because I know how "Get off my lawn" it looks. We are emerging from the era of "treat 'em all the same".
   42. IronChef Chris Wok Posted: December 15, 2013 at 11:01 PM (#4618614)
CTE is also "apparently" rampant amongst some NHL goons and is attributed to the premature deaths of some. (I don't follow hockeyl have only read anecdotally.)


Rypien, Boogaard, Probert, are all dead, and Gino is pretty ###### up and was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago.
   43. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 15, 2013 at 11:03 PM (#4618615)
Rypien, Boogaard, Probert, are all dead, and Gino is pretty ###### up and was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago.


And a billion of these guys are just fine.

Without a denominator nothing can be concluded.

Some non-hockey players are pretty ###### up too.
   44. Tom T Posted: December 15, 2013 at 11:19 PM (#4618619)
The thing is that we have these. People died from all sorts of stuff before twenty years ago, and their brains were highly studied, for different reasons. The thing is that some high school athlete (I'm blanking on his name, sadly) killed himself and when they autopsied him, his brain was remarkable-looking for one so young.

Yes, a controlled study of these types of people can be very illuminative, and I'm sure it's happening right now. But that doesn't mean that CTE isn't a real thing, and that the early evidence points to participation in concussive activities as a probable cause.


You're funny, Erik!

Lordy, no, there isn't a controlled study of this type on-going. The BU folks are continuing to harvest dead brains from folks (or their families) who voluntarily provide them. As a general rule, these folks are known to have had marked problems during the later portion of their lives. In other words, if you are going to look where you are most likely to find CTE, this is the population.

The more recent work from UCLA (evidence of CTE-like accumulation of tau...no matter what Dorsett says he "has") is the direction that may start to highlight whether or not CTE has a meaningful rate of occurrence outside the gladiatorial sporting domains.

That said, our work continues to push us toward the viewpoint that playing *professional* sports has little-to-nothing to do with eventual neurodegeneration. Our 15-year-old football players already look markedly different from their peers who do not have a history of such participation. We are hoping to investigate a team of 10-11 year olds to see if this marked difference is evidence of "self-selection" (i.e., does a particular brain structure lead to greater tolerance for getting hit, etc.) or can meaningfully be attributed to repeated collisions.

Of course, nobody wants to fund this type of study...sure as heck not the NFL, not the NCAA, not USA Football, and not NIH --- it isn't a "clinical" problem (no symptoms) for these kids, so it is not something that needs to be treated! (Yes, that IS a summary of comments from the ANIE review panel.) Rather, the solution probably lies by treating it as an engineering problem...we are likely talking about long-term damage precipitated by mechanical stresses on neural tissue, causing either/both membrane breakdowns or/and chemical concentration changes that lead to altered function. By avoiding the issue of the viability of the sport, and avoiding the landmine of trying to tell the (grumble, grumble...all-knowing) neurologists that maybe, JUST MAYBE, something they can't assess is important (I do wonder how cardiologists reacted to the early evidence of high cholesterol levels, or the use of CT to detect plaques...) someone might just be able to do something (e.g., improved equipment, or monitoring and controlling exposure a la radiation!!!).
   45. Greg K Posted: December 15, 2013 at 11:43 PM (#4618632)

Rypien, Boogaard, Probert, are all dead, and Gino is pretty ###### up and was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago.

Wade Belak killed himself too within a couple months of Boogaard and Rypien dying. I think the three of those bunched together is what really captured the attention of the hockey world.
   46. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 09:16 AM (#4618709)
In ligh of Freel's death and diagnosis, it's kind of weird nowadays to look back on him talking about his imaginary friend Farney who talked to him and lived in his head, and the way that was routinely played for laughs in the media.
   47. Random Transaction Generator Posted: December 16, 2013 at 09:50 AM (#4618715)
Rypien, Boogaard, Probert, are all dead, and Gino is pretty ###### up and was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago.


And a billion of these guys are just fine.


Actually, there is only about a thousand of these guys around, and I'm being EXTREMELY generous with that number.

When you figure NHL, AHL, ECHL, Canadian junior hockey, American/Canadian college hockey, and some fringe minor leagues, there really aren't that many "goon" players.
European hockey doesn't have them at all.

Sure, there are lots of them that seem to have come out okay, but it might be too early to say that right now.
(Tie Domi, often a participant in the fisticuffs, and known for actually blocking punches with the top of his head, seems to be "normal" at this point.)

   48. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: December 16, 2013 at 10:52 AM (#4618744)
"Special Education" is an endangered concept today as many parents think that their child is dissimilar to the others in that classification and need their very own educational help. You see this in homeschooling of special needs children.

Yes and no. I think special education is endangered in some respects, but for the opposite reason. Many parents of special needs kids want to mainstream them as much as possible, e.g., have them attend regular classes instead of special needs ones, and sometimes that's not the best thing for the child.

Far from the Tree has a lot of interesting material on these issues.

Look, I didn't want to spell all this out, because I know how "Get off my lawn" it looks. We are emerging from the era of "treat 'em all the same".

But where do you draw the line? In that previous era, a lot of kids with special needs fell through the cracks or were ignored because most people didn't think society had any obligation to accomodate them. Look at the history of education for the deaf. For generations, they were treated as imbeciles who couldn't be educated.
   49. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 11:00 AM (#4618758)
However, I don't think the NFL needs to worry about its viability for a long, long time. Doesn't the popularity of Ultimate Fighting suggest that there's plenty of appetite for gladiatorial combat? And Ultimate Fighting seems pretty racially mixed...


Isn't UFC pretty niche still? If the NFL is only popular among that size of an audience, it will have lost much of its base.

What I find sadder is parents whose kid has already had 3 concussions (and have none of the sterotypical financial hardships that go along with so many young athletes from terrible family circumstances) have no problem with the child continuing to play HS football in the slim chance he may get a scholarship to a D2- or D3- school. (Even if they don't give scholarships, they do get athletic stipend.)



My wife is a nurse and she just dealt with this, only it wasn't a concussion, it was a life-threatening illness. The parents just could not get it through their head that not only could their son not play football anymore, HE MIGHT BE DEAD SOON IF THEY DIDN'T ADDRESS THIS. But all they could ask was "but can he play next week?"
   50. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 11:09 AM (#4618763)
Isn't UFC pretty niche still?


Yep.
   51. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: December 16, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4618769)
Also, I agree with #34 -- comparing CTE and the anti-immunization movement in any way, shape, or form is just bizarre.
   52. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 16, 2013 at 11:29 AM (#4618786)
It is not the parents that will kill football it is the lawsuits. Though parents not wanting Billy to play Pop Warner will contribute.

I love football but I did not let my youngest play when he wanted. It is a slow thing, and will hit certain states last (Hi Texas), but change is coming and the sport will have to change.
   53. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 11:46 AM (#4618806)
My wife is a nurse and she just dealt with this, only it wasn't a concussion, it was a life-threatening illness. The parents just could not get it through their head that not only could their son not play football anymore, HE MIGHT BE DEAD SOON IF THEY DIDN'T ADDRESS THIS. But all they could ask was "but can he play next week?"


This type of subject matter was dealt with in a 1977 episode of Quincy M.E. entitled Main Man:

A talented high school football player dies on the field from a genetic brain tumor. His younger brother is also a talented athlete, and making a name for himself on the team as well. Quincy must convince the boy's father to pull him from the championship game to prevent another possible tragedy, at least until thorough testing can be completed. Quincy not only finds resistance from the father, but from every one of the team's coaches and players.

   54. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4618812)
Was Quincy RISKING A PATIENT'S LIFE?
   55. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 12:03 PM (#4618822)
Isn't UFC pretty niche still?

Yep.


Well that depends on how you determine "niche" of course - they have numerous shows on several cable networks and a robust PPV business model, although they're clearly trending in the wrong direction with both. In their favor they have an indefensible plantation-based business model clearly structured to emulate the WWF's pseudo-sport economics, with exclusive contracts, automatic renewals in perpetuity for champions, exclusive rights to their fighter's likenesses in perpetuity, and even a clause that allows UFC management to approve every fighter's branded sponsor and then solicit a cut of a fighter's sponsorships.

As recently as last March the promotion was scraping 1,000,000 PPV buys at $50 a pop, so if it's a niche it remains a lucrative one. I would agree that as a general matter though, the UFC's previously meteoric rise seems to have stalled and may never reach such heights again.
   56. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 01:42 PM (#4618919)
Well that depends on how you determine "niche" of course - they have numerous shows on several cable networks and a robust PPV business model, although they're clearly trending in the wrong direction with both.


To my mind, the fact that they derive most of their media revenue from PPV events rather than a national TV contract is itself a big indication that they're a niche sport.

(Not trying to run down MMA itself when I say this, of course. But the situation is what it is.)
   57. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 01:45 PM (#4618920)
In a related matter, I don't understand their handling of The Ultimate Fighter. Why use one of your best media platforms to showcase third-tier prospects, space-fillers, and the occasional self-promoting telegenic #######? Casual fans who see 40 minutes of bullshit reality-show drama followed by a sloppy fight between two marginally-talented novices are going to assume that that's all there is to the sport, and be turned off by it.
   58. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 16, 2013 at 02:11 PM (#4618933)
The parents just could not get it through their head that not only could their son not play football anymore, HE MIGHT BE DEAD SOON IF THEY DIDN'T ADDRESS THIS. But all they could ask was "but can he play next week?"

The nation has badly lost its way.
   59. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 16, 2013 at 02:21 PM (#4618945)
The nation has badly lost its way.


Back in the good old days parents never made bad parenting decisions, once the kids got back from the coal mine it was early to bed so they could do it all over again.
   60. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: December 16, 2013 at 02:26 PM (#4618951)
The nation has badly lost its way.

When did we ever have our way? We've always been kind of ###### up.
   61. Greg K Posted: December 16, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4618954)
Is there anything that isn't a sign of the decline of America?
   62. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 02:29 PM (#4618955)
Back in the good old days parents never made bad parenting decisions, once the kids got back from the coal mine it was early to bed so they could do it all over again.

There's quite a difference between risking your life so your family can eat, and risking your life to excite the yahoo losers on Friday night.
   63. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: December 16, 2013 at 02:37 PM (#4618961)
Is there anything that isn't a sign of the decline of America?

Umm. Well... Hmmm... I got nothing.
   64. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 16, 2013 at 02:45 PM (#4618966)
There's quite a difference between risking your life so your family can eat, and risking your life to excite the yahoo losers on Friday night.


With freedom comes the freedom to make terrible decisions. Of course when folks want to regulate some of those bad decisions government is EVIL and freedom is lost forever. If people don't then society is falling apart!

Pick one guys.
   65. NTP Nate Posted: December 16, 2013 at 03:33 PM (#4619007)
Pick one guys.


Not mutually exclusive. Post-WW2 American society is falling apart and government, while not evil, is ill-equipped to address most of the root causes. Meanwhile, neither the nanny state nor the death of the pioneer spirit will ultimately be responsible for decreased participation if there is ever a demonstrated link between contact sports and chronic brain injury. The instinct toward self-preservation will suffice.
   66. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 16, 2013 at 03:35 PM (#4619010)
Is there anything that isn't a sign of the decline of America?

Technology is way better, crime is down significantly.

Something that just became known to me, the 1979 as the possible peak hypothesis this space has offered was essentially confirmed in a recent well-received book, "Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century." Noting that 1979 saw the rise to power of John Paul II, Ayatollah Khomeini, Margaret Thatcher, and Deng Xiaoping (as well as the continued decline of Afghanistan and the eventual Soviet invasion), the author rightly notes that that year marked the inflection point of the secular and balanced decades immediately preceding, and the free market and religious zealotry that define the late 20th and early 21st century. That change is rightly considered decline.

Bringing it back to to the topic of the thread, the defining markers of the decline are disequilibria and excess. Those are demonstrated perfectly by the distended role sport and youth sport play in American society and the utterly misguided place they have in the eyes of millions of presumably adult parents and onlookers -- as noted by the piece my earlier comment quoted.
   67. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4619028)
Is there anything that isn't a sign of the decline of America?


Clothes for hot women -- leggings, tight jeans, bikinis, sexier lingerie -- that make them look hotter.

Other than that, no, nothing.
   68. Greg K Posted: December 16, 2013 at 03:58 PM (#4619029)
Clothes for hot women -- leggings, tight jeans, bikinis, sexier lingerie -- that make them look hotter.

This potentially makes sense. In Britain leg-warmers and wearing skirts over-top of jeans appear to be all the rage. They're clearly one step ahead of America and have already discarded that last vestige of progress.
   69. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: December 16, 2013 at 04:03 PM (#4619031)
Technology is way better

I would have agreed with you a year ago, but the UI's of Windows 8 and iOS7 are seriously making me reconsider.
   70. Simpson Posted: December 16, 2013 at 04:04 PM (#4619032)
Isn't the most likely correlation between CTE and sports-related head injuries (and other serious non-sports head injuries) something like alcholism? Where no exact link between the two can ever be conclusively proven for any given individual, but that family history/genetics are the determining factor on whether someone who sustains head injuries and gets CTE while someone else does not? So that the risk is understood in the way we understand alcoholism - not everyone who has a drink is going to be alcoholic, but there are risk factors for certain individuals that may make that outcome more likely, and that is what athletes and parents will need to consider when making the choice whether to play or not.
   71. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: December 16, 2013 at 04:12 PM (#4619040)
Post-WW2 American society is falling apart


I'm not sure pre-WW2 society was a real picnic either, what with the Great Depression, government-enforced apartheid, and socialism/fascism. We didn't start the fire, man.
   72. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: December 16, 2013 at 04:17 PM (#4619044)
I get the feeling that CTE is going to end up like global warming. Lots of data will come out and most doctors will say there's a significant risk from contact sports, but a bunch of people are going to insist that the doctors and "nanny-staters" are fear-mongering and that there's no way to prove a link with absolute certainty.
   73. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 04:20 PM (#4619046)
I get the feeling that CTE is going to end up like global warming. Lots of data will come out and most doctors will say there's a significant risk from contact sports, but a bunch of people are going to insist that the doctors and "nanny-staters" are fear-mongering and that there's no way to prove a link with absolute certainty.


It won't happen like this, because I can't see how CTE will enable liberals to try to get behind the wheel to control a huge segment of the world economy.

But keep dreaming up various cheap shots.
   74. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 04:24 PM (#4619048)
It won't happen like this, because I can't see how CTE will enable liberals to try to get behind the wheel to control a huge segment of the world economy.



Money? Psh. This will allow liberals to finally get revenge on all those jocks that gave them swirlies in high school.
   75. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 16, 2013 at 04:41 PM (#4619064)
But keep dreaming up various cheap shots.


This statement right after a cheap shot is why we all love Ray so.
   76. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 16, 2013 at 04:58 PM (#4619073)
I wish we lived in pre-WW2, when we could expect to live two less decades, women couldn't vote, blacks were still 3rd class citizens, and many other huge positives that have been lost along the way.
   77. Recalcitrant Nate Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:04 PM (#4619078)
@ #70- I think you may be onto something, but there may be no way to know. CTE from my understanding increases the risk of suicide but only because it increases the risk of all impulsive behaviors. It theoretically does this because deterioration of brain tissue in the frontal lobe limits executive function, increasing numerous impulsive behaviors- alcohol/drug abuse, risk taking, gambling, and yes self injury. Not to mention the limited ability to logically consider pros and cons of decisions, and observe experienced emotions is also limited. So they seem to all feed one another. The apparent increase in CTE impulsiveness is not unlike what sufferers of PTSD and traumatic brain injury (not sure i even know the difference between CTE and TBI actually) experience. We also know that the frontal lobe continues to develop through the teenage years and up into the twenties (hence the bad decision making in high school and college years), so kids experiencing this kind of damage in those years is likely worse. Essentially, the increase in suicide risk in CTE comes from the increase in impulsiveness, which is actually pretty consistent with other factors totally unrelated to CTE. Increased impulsivity= increased suicide risk. Plus there's the additional complicating factor that some people's personalities appear prone to higher risk taking. Its a complicated issue, but there seems to be clear reason for more research and certainly protective interventions from major sports.
   78. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:09 PM (#4619086)
The country was basically sick through the Kennedy assassination and the civil rights bills, underwent 15-20 years of significant improvement (*), then declined from that peak. That peak was the country's historical high point.

(*) When it, among other things, evicted a crooked president from office and increased individual liberties dramatically -- all in a period where economic balance and secular dominance obtained.
   79. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:11 PM (#4619087)
Technology is way better, crime is down significantly.


Bowling averages are way up. Minigolf scores are way down. And we have more excellent waterslides than any other planet we communicate with.
   80. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:25 PM (#4619107)
That peak was the country's historical high point.


For straight white males, in a relative, but not absolute, sense.

Thankfully everyone is a straight white male (or wishes they were) and relative peak is all that matters, things life crime statistics and life expectancy don't matter at all. Or you are full of it.
   81. puck Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:26 PM (#4619108)
Is there anything that isn't a sign of the decline of America?

Ramen burgers? Though I've not had one, so I guess they could be just another sign.
   82. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4619122)
For straight white males, in a relative, but not absolute, sense.

Thankfully everyone is a straight white male (or wishes they were) and relative peak is all that matters, things life crime statistics and life expectancy don't matter at all. Or you are full of it.


The time from 1979-January 2009 is a span of 29-30 years. For twenty of those years, the country had a Republican president -- sixteen of which were helmed by two alleged disasters, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Is it your claim that the country significantly progressed (or progressed at all) during that time period, even under right-wing rule? (And please don't try to say the 8 years of Bill Clinton and the 5 of Barack Obama fixed all the right-wingetry before and after because that's cookoo talk, belied by everything the lefty nutters utter.)

   83. zonk Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:46 PM (#4619125)
Our cliches have gotten richer and fuller, too --

once upon a time, death was the only sure thing.

Then it was death and taxes.

Now, it's death, taxes, and the certainty that the world was a better place in one's youth/the youth of one's father/grandfather/etc.
   84. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:54 PM (#4619130)
Is it your claim that the country significantly progressed (or progressed at all) during that time period, even under right-wing rule?


Yes. Yes it is. Though those are not the words I would use - "rule"?
   85. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:55 PM (#4619131)
Our cliches have gotten richer and fuller, too --

once upon a time, death was the only sure thing.

Then it was death and taxes.

Now, it's death, taxes, and the certainty that the world was a better place in one's youth/the youth of one's father/grandfather/etc.


That's lazy. Historians are starting to see 1979 as an inflection point begetting an era of economic and religious zealotry. That narrative is true.(*) If you think economic and religious zealotry are anti-progressive and signs of decline, you're quite right in seeing the country in decline.

One important thing that narrative leaves out is human/individual rights, but we're also significantly worse off there -- in toto, though not in every particular -- in 2013 than 1979.

(*) Beyond any real doubt. Does anyone actually believe that secularism and advocates of a mixed, balanced economy are stronger now than in 1979, and free marketeers and religious wingnuttery weaker? Please.
   86. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 16, 2013 at 05:58 PM (#4619133)
Yes. Yes it is. Though those are not the words I would use - "rule"?

Then you have no real complaint against Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, if the country progressed and improved under their presidencies.(*) It may not have progressed as much as some imaginary counterfactual, but that's nitpicky.

(*) And you don't in fact believe the country was better off in January 2009 than in January 2001. It obviously wasn't.
   87. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 16, 2013 at 06:31 PM (#4619155)
Then you have no real complaint against Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, if the country progressed and improved under their presidencies.(*) It may not have progressed as much as some imaginary counterfactual, but that's nitpicky.


Unlike you* I do not attribute everything that happens to the sole credit or blame of the office of the President.

Many many things happen, including even political things, which are not their full responsibility. Suggesting that since I know that the country is better off than it was 35 years ago I can not suggest that some of the various politicians or their policies are without flaw is ridiculous. In fact even you don't believe this to be true.

The presidents leading up to your "Apex" were Carter, Ford, and Nixon. That is years of pretty bad presidency and yet those giants - according to you - led us to heights we never before reached and have not seen since. Clearly you think Obama and Clinton should have been more like Carter, and Reagan and the Bushes should have been more like Ford and Nixon. Well following your absurd logic.

We are better off now than in 1979. There is MUCH less crime. Our society is wealthier. We live longer. Heck even tax rates are lower. And all of that ignores the fact the improvements in technology (Wave at the nice internet everyone). Civil rights is a mixed bag, clearly not every single thing is better.

* Well as I discuss even you don't do this, except for this particular argument at this point in time. It is a bit like the SC ruling that got Bush II his presidency, never applied before and not to ever be applied again.
   88. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: December 16, 2013 at 06:49 PM (#4619173)
It's not that complicated:

- Many things have gotten a lot better over the last 30 years.
- Many things have gotten worse.
- On balance, I think the good easily outweighs the bad.
- With better leadership we would be in even better shape.
   89. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 06:59 PM (#4619179)
- On balance, I think the good easily outweighs the bad.

I would imagine this is where you'll get the debate.

I'm not saying I don't agree with you on balance, but certain things are trending very badly (family forming, income inequality, etc.).
   90. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 07:00 PM (#4619180)
double post
   91. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: December 16, 2013 at 07:08 PM (#4619186)
I would imagine this is where you'll get the debate.

I'm not saying that this point can't be disputed, just that it's a perfectly logical set of beliefs. IOW, there's nothing inconsistent about saying that, on balance, things have improved, but I thought X was a terrible president.
   92. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 07:30 PM (#4619198)
Well that depends on how you determine "niche" of course - they have numerous shows on several cable networks and a robust PPV business model, although they're clearly trending in the wrong direction with both.

To my mind, the fact that they derive most of their media revenue from PPV events rather than a national TV contract is itself a big indication that they're a niche sport.


I think that's too simplistic an approach to focus on how revenue is generated versus how much cultural impact and interest is associated with the sport. Boxing has been focused almost entirely on PPV since the 1980s and you can't tell me Mike Tyson was anything less than one of the most recognizable and discussed athletes in the world during that period, bringing home more money in a single night through that PPV model than any baseball player makes in a year. Everyone (I don't literally mean everyone but you get my drift) knew who Evander Holyfield was. Everyone knew who Sugar Ray Leonard was. Boxers had cultural impact. "Did ya see the fight last night" was a completely unremarkable thing for people to say at work.
   93. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: December 16, 2013 at 08:25 PM (#4619232)
there is a great reason those examples are twenty years old - PPV is a HUGE barrier to entry; you can squeeze your existing fans for big bucks, but your sport won't grow, and the next generation won't see your best fights.
   94. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: December 16, 2013 at 09:10 PM (#4619248)
Oh you don't need to tell me how PPV has destroyed boxing as a mainstream sport, I've expounded at length on that topic.
   95. dejarouehg Posted: December 16, 2013 at 09:27 PM (#4619252)
Is there anything that isn't a sign of the decline of America?


I started working on numerous responses to this and got too frustrated. Suffice it to say, I feel bad for what my kids' generation will be inheriting but I truly believe their childrens' generation is completely screwed.

Sooner or later someone is going to have to pay the piper as our generation continues to kick the (financially shortsighted) can down the road.

I think those of us born at the tail end of the baby boom generation got off the easiest. Tremendous economic opportunity, not forced to deal with a military draft, a relatively stable political world (on many levels, the world was in better shape with the 2 super powers who kept the other lunatics at bay) and a great cultural diversity in music and arts - forgive disco.

   96. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 16, 2013 at 09:34 PM (#4619257)
This has pretty much turned into an OT-P discussion. And I believe the hope from the poobah is that we have only one of these at a time.
   97. Random Transaction Generator Posted: December 16, 2013 at 10:07 PM (#4619276)
To swing it back to the original topic, the single best indicator of how much better society is now than it was in 1979 is in the field of medicine.*

In 1979, nobody noticed (or nobody cared) the absolutely brutal damage athletes in contact sports were doing to their bodies.

Concussion awareness is a huge step forward in sports.
The fact that people know that it's no longer funny when a player "gets his bell rung" is a step forward.
I remember enjoying watching hockey videos when I was in my teens (more than 20 years ago) where players were getting knocked woozy and/or unconscious, and loving it.
Why? I didn't think there were any long term effects to it, so it was simply something they'd shake off in a day or two and get back to playing.

*Other than head trauma, the fact that players can have ligaments repaired quite easily (Bobby Orr was 20 years too early) is a huge change.
Outside of sports, the recovery chances from being diagnosed with cancer, or having a heart attack, or a stroke, is so much better than in the "old days".
When anyone asks if I think today is better than yesterday, this is always the main reason I say "yes".
   98. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 16, 2013 at 10:44 PM (#4619293)
The "death" of boxing remains totally overrated; big fights have been PPV since Ali-Frazier I and big fights still get tons of PPV buys in 2013. It merely seems like it's dying, and it seems like it's dying because its perceived place in the everyday sports mainstream has coincided almost perfectly with the rise of talk radio and fantasy sports, which needs the type of constant content necessary to have 24/7 blabfests and to keep fanboy would-be GMs happy -- and which boxing, with its sporadic events, simply can't deliver.

When sports were covered as sports -- in other words, when the point of covering an event was the event and its participants rather than the numbers the event threw off and how the competitors got to where they are -- people like Plimpton and Mailer regularly and happily wrote about boxing. None of the things they wrote about have disappeared, it's just that there isn't an audience anymore for event/participant-focused long-form, literary narrative. It's the lost audience for that form that does most of the blabbing about boxing's "death."
   99. Tom T Posted: December 16, 2013 at 10:55 PM (#4619299)
Both #70 and #77 have done a good job summarizing a lot of the key issues. There are a small group of neurologists who are starting to agree with many neurosurgeons (and the engineers, like myself) that PTSD = TBI, and that CTE likely represents a subset of CTE that occurs in a subset of candidate individuals, but is not a "certain" outcome for anyone.

What is bizarre is the approach of the NFL (and other organizations) seeking to discredit the CTE and other TBI research. The Owen Thomas (Penn football player) case illustrates you need not be a *professional* football player to end up with some evidence of CTE, and now the Freel case argues you need not truly be a *football* player (at least not as a primary sport) to end up with CTE (this latter was, of course, obviously known as many boxers end up with like pathology). However, in spite of these obvious caveats, the NFL continues to try to discredit the idea that CTE is linked to head contact whatsoever by trying to find linkages to such things as childhood second-hand smoke exposure, alcohol use, etc., rather than simply trying to break the linkage to professional football (which would seem the only basis on which they could be held liable..?). They just gave a couple million to Ellenbogen to pursue the above "other connections" even though such already exist. Basically, looks like the cover-up is off-and-running even when no cover-up is necessary....

It will be interesting to see who the 4 researchers who received NFL-sponsored R21s from the NIH are. I know one (who can't say anything until the announcement at the Super Bowl), and while what he's doing can be useful for earlier detection of neurological dysfunction, there is no linkage in what he does to head collision counts (i.e., exposure) or any traditional measure of neurophysiology that can readily be compared to other mild (or not) TBI cases. As part of a larger study that includes traditional brain studies, I think his work would be of great value...just not obvious that will happen. Kind of a bummer!
   100. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 17, 2013 at 12:45 AM (#4619364)
That peak was the country's historical high point.


For straight white males, in a relative, but not absolute, sense.


Well, it's all gay all the time now in the US, so hopefully people will stop complaining about the past soon.
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