In Season 1 of the Razed Sports podcast, host Bob Harkins tackles the issue of brain trauma in football. What are the long-term effects on the health of athletes, how does it affect their loved ones and what does it all mean for the future of the sport?
We’ve learned a lot about brain injuries in football during Season 1 of Razed Sports. But there is one nagging question that we haven’t really addressed :
Knowing all that we now know about the long-term risks of tackle football, why are we still playing the sport?
I’ve heard a lot of responses to this question over the last few months, some of which make some sense, some … well … not so much. But I’ve never heard an answer laid out quite so eloquently and sensibly as when I heard Erick’s interview with Ken LaVigne.
LaVigne has dedicated a huge portion of his life to the sport, both as a player and a coach. He had to quit football due to concussions, so he does not have his head in the sand when it comes to the sport’s risks. But he also credits the game, and the mentors he met through it, with saving his life. To him, the rewards outweigh the risks.
He does provide two caveats though — the sport needs to evolve and become safer and it’s the responsibility of coaches to put player safety first, like his coaches did for him.
Listen to Ep. 9 for LaVigne’s story and also check out his new book titled “Coaching the Soul.”
In 2011, Bill Simpson was watching an Indianapolis Colts game from the sideline. He wasn’t a football fan, but he’d been lured there by his friend Tom Moore, who was the team’s offensive coordinator at the time. During the game, Indianapolis Colts receiver Austin Collie took a terrible hit and was carted from the field with a concussion.
Simpson was shocked, but when he asked Moore, his friend told him “this happens every game.”
Simpson wanted to look at the helmets the Colts were wearing — not out of random interest, but professional curiosity. After all, Simpson had spent a career making helmets and other safety equipment for auto racing. The Colts gave him three helmets to test in his lab and he was not impressed.
“The equipment manager brought me three helmets,” Simpson said. “And I tested them. And I ended up taking them back to the Colts and I said ‘here they are.’ And they said ‘well what’s the results?’ And I said ‘I killed all three of your football players.’ ‘What?’ I said ‘ let me tell you something, I wouldn’t put a helmet like that on my dog.’”
Thus began Simpson’s quest to build a better football helmet.
Simpson focused on weight (think about the importance of Newton’s second law of motion), and built the lightest football helmet on the market. But Simpson experienced a lot of road blocks along the way — it seemed the NFL didn’t care much for this blunt outsider who had no problems criticizing inferior products. After the NFL banned his helmet (Simpson claims they tested a prototype) he gave up, selling the company to Nick Esayian and others, who re-named the company Light Helmets and are carrying the torch forward.
But the debate continues: What is the best way to build a football helmet? Do we need a totally new material? Should the shell be soft? Do we need to re-think them completely? We tackle all of this in Episode 8.
What do we know about genetic links to CTE? There are a lot of theories, but not a lot of answers.
I was asked to tackle this topic for Fansided.com (the article is live so please check out out), but I also wanted to produce a bonus episode for the listeners here.
I took a two-pronged approach for this story, looking at it from a player's perspective and from a science perspective as well. What I found out is that the waters are a lot more muddied than you might think based on a few select headlines you might see (Scientists link gene to CTE!).
The fact is that many researchers believe some people might be genetically predisposed to getting CTE, but they don't really know what set of genes might be in play. But it's confusing, and some players are putting a little more stock in the idea than they should be.
So please listen to the bonus episode, then head over to Fansided to read the whole story. Thanks!
In late 2016, the Supreme Court rejected challenges to the settlement of a landmark lawsuit against the National Football League. That cleared the last hurdle to a billion-dollar agreement — former players could finally be compensated for brain ailments they suffered playing professional football.
While the lawsuit and settlement rocked the sports world, the way it all started was almost unbelievable. It involved an unlikely friendship between two men from vastly different backgrounds.
One was Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who had discovered CTE in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Mike Webster. The other was Jason Luckasevic, a lawyer who grew up worshiping his heroes in black and gold.
During a meeting in 2006, Omalu told Luckasevic that the NFL was unhappy with his work. They were coming after him, trying to discredit him and ruin his career.
“And I said ‘well do something about it, look into it, figure it out, fight back,’” Luckasevic says. “And he said ‘well you’re a good lawyer you figure it out.’”
And so, in an effort to defend his friend and help players who had been used and discarded by the NFL, Luckasevic went to work.
This is his story.
There is a fair amount of research into the medical benefits of marijuana, but when it comes to CBD, our knowledge is less clear.
CBD does not contain THC, which is the component of marijuana that makes you high. So you theoretically get all the benefits without the psychoactive effects. What's unclear, however, is what exactly the health benefits are.
Kyle Turley (see episode 6) and many other football players swear by the positive benefits of CBD, but the research community is taking a more cautiously optimistic approach until more data is available.
Join us as we attempt to answer the question: "What do we know about CBD?"
Head over to Razedsports.com for more information on this topic.
Kyle Turley came away from his NFL career with a host of health issues (including symptoms of CTE) and an addiction to prescription pain medicine. He claims that cannabis helped him overcome his addiction, lessened his pain and aided him in his battle with suicidal thoughts.
Credits: Reported and written by Erick Galindo (@ErickGEEE); edited and produced by Bob Harkins (@BHarks).
A 2017 study shocked the football world with a headline: CTE had been found in 110 out of 111 brains of deceased former NFL players. It was alarming, but also sparked a backlash of naysayers pointing out that it was a biased study with little scientific value.
But Drs. Zach Binney and Kathleen Bachynski thought otherwise and came up with a study of their own -- using math to figure out a ballpark range for what the prevalence of CTE might be. They speak with us in this bonus episode, teaching us, among other things:
-- Based on their own studies, the bare minimum of CTE in recently deceased NFL players is about 10 percent.
-- Even if players with CTE are 461 times more likely to donate their brains, the overall rate would still be 20 percent.
-- NFL players as a whole are healthier and live longer than non-NFL players, but they die of brain diseases at a much higher rate.
Kevin Saum was an excellent high school football player who loved running over defenders on his way to the end zone. But that style of play led to an incident that cost him his dream of playing in college -- and nearly ended his life.
Now he wants other athletes to know that there are more important things than football and better ways to define toughness. He takes a break from his own podcast -- "Heads N' Tales" -- to share his story with Razed Sports.
Stephen Casper, a neuroscience historian and professor at Clarkson University, sets the record straight on the historical connection between brain injuries in sports and long-term health issues.
Among the things we learn:
- The scientific community has known about this connection much longer than you think.
- How the rise of sports medicine led to a (wrong) perception that brain injury research is a new thing.
- Whether some people might be genetically predisposed to getting CTE, and what that means.
- Why every doctor associated with the NFL and NCAA has no excuse for being unaware of this history.
After Joseph Chernach took his own life in 2012, he was found to have suffered brain damage from playing football. Since then, his mother, Debbie Pyka, has worked to educate others on the risks of football and encourage brain donations to further medical research.
Mirin Fader of Bleacher Report discusses her story on James Ransom, who committed suicide at age 13 just a year after suffering a concussion on the football field. Fader talks about the challenges of reporting the story, the heartbreak of James' parents, the lack of a response from youth football officials, and more.
We tell the story of Junior Seau through the eyes of someone who knew him best, his sister Mary, who sheds light on what drove him to become an NFL legend. She also shares thoughts on why signs of her brother's brain trauma went unheeded, discusses her own feelings of guilt and talks about what she is doing to help others through the Mary Seau CTE Foundation.
ESPN's Tim Keown discusses his story on Bailey Foley, a high school football player who suffered a severe head injury during a game and nearly died on the field. Foley's teammates vowed to "play like Bailey" on the way to a state title, leading to a tough question -- if something good comes from something terrible, was it worth it?
Kimberly Archie has long been an advocate for child safety in sports, so when her son Paul died in a motorcycle accident, her experience told her there was more to his story. It also led her on a quest to make football safer for kids.
Kimberly Archie was already an advocate for child safety in sports when she lost her son Paul in a motorcycle accident. But when her fears were confirmed and it turned out that Paul had brain damage as a result of playing youth football, she knew she had to do more.
In our first "Razed Short," we take a look at CTE -- chronic traumatic encephalopathy. What is it? What are the symptoms? Is there any way to treat it? How widespread is it in football? We attempt to answer all of these questions.
In Season 1 of the Razed Sports podcast, we'll tackle the issue of brain trauma in the sport of football. Our first episode is on Cyndy Feasel, who witnessed the heartbreaking changes in her husband Grant, who slid into alcoholism after 117 brutal games in the NFL, and who was diagnosed with stage 3 CTE following his death in 2012 at age 52.
Grant Feasel was all set to pursue a career as a dentist, but everything changed when he was drafted in the sixth round of the 1983 draft. Cyndy Feasel, Grant's wife of 29 years, shares her story of how severe brain trauma changed her husband and devastated her family. Listen to Episode 1 on Sept. 6.
Welcome to the Razed Sports Podcast! In season 1, host Bob Harkins will dive into the topic of concussions and CTE -- brain trauma -- in football. We'll tell personal stories of those affected personally by the crisis and try to discern what it all means for the future of the sport.