They don't want to know. NFL players, I'm talking about. And brain damage, I'm talking about. Their brain damage. They don't want to know.
They could be ticking time bombs -- dementia, homelessness, even suicide are some of the known detonations -- and lots of the players I talked to at Super Bowl XLVII would rather not talk about it. Or even know about it. They would rather stick their head in the sand and pretend the time bomb isn't there, ticking, inside their skull.
"I wouldn't want to know," 49ers running back Frank Gore said.
And yet someday -- someday soon, perhaps -- he could know. That's where the science is headed. Researchers at UCLA recently found one telltale sign of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in five retired football players. Before this breakthrough, the tau proteins that show up in CTE-suffering brains were believed to be detectable only after the person was dead. Now there is hope that those proteins, and that degenerative brain disease, can be detected while the person is still alive. Still playing.
Still able to stop, before it gets worse.