Two separate events over the past four days reaffirmed the depth and intransigence of the tragically growing problem of long-term brain damage to the NFL’s most high-profile employees — its players.
The first actually didn’t involve the brain, unless one wants to argue Mike Shanahan doesn’t have one, but it is symptomatic of the deeper issues at play here.
For anyone to argue that Robert Griffin III should have been repeatedly sent back into last Sunday’s wild card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks with his knee so visibly impaired he began moving like Peg-Leg Pete is to suggest you have sustained repeated head trauma yourself.
Yet the fact is Shanahan didn’t need a doctor to tell him Griffin was seriously impaired. He only had to take a step back from the moment, which is where the real NFL health problem exists. No one, including the players, can do it, which brings us to the announcement yesterday that 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau’s brain was riddled with tau protein the day he ended his life with a bullet to the heart.
At that moment Seau was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a form of dementia. Those three letters are a bigger threat to the NFL than any others and not simply because the league is facing lawsuits from over 4,000 ex-players claiming they were the victims of a league-orchestrated cover-up of the long-term effects of repeated head trauma.