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NFL and Brain Trauma: Science, Public Perception Is Ripping Apart Pro Football

Seau, in happier times.
Seau, in happier times.Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Chris BurnhamContributor IMay 3, 2012

The game of football has reached a crisis point.

This is not a retort to minimize the impact of a player of Junior Seau's caliber.

It's about the subsequent fallout.

It's out of genuine concern that his death could be a catalyst towards the bitter and inglorious end of football as we know it.

Football has always come with inherent risks; players know that they are bound to get hurt. However, having players going out of bounds—literally and figuratively—to hurt other members of this elite fraternity of athletes...this too is torpedoing the sport that so many of us love.

Forces from both the past and the present are questioning why the NFL allowed brain injuries to go unheeded in generations past, essentially asking the league to rewrite the history of the gladiator-like style of play.

It would be nice to have a crystal ball to see where it is all headed, because the perch from where football sits is undergoing a major siege.

All sorts of rocks are being thrown in its direction.

It's easy to allow knee-jerk reactions to roll off the tongue or through one's laptop when any of the "good guys" in sports passes well before his time; it's easy to want immediate answers as to why.

And now, we have the easy answer in chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Only...it could be fair to hope that it isn't the answer, because all that does is bring football one step closer to the end.

Football is my game amongst all. I don't deny that my judgment might come from looking at the game as personal property through which I live vicariously. And I am very happy that neuroscience has advanced to the point of savant-level meticulousness to help ensure player safety.

But I'm still not sure where the blame lies as all the lawsuits from former players continue to pile onto Roger Goodell's desk.

It's impossible to appease the past in any walk of life. After all, in football, injuries have been a cost of doing business since the beginning. Obviously, they still are. But is it fair that what we didn't know then is now being looked at as negligence because of what we have now learned?

Are we deciding as a society to write off the game of football as unfit to play, watch, or consume?

These are questions none of us hope will need to be answered. To answer them, though, we need to decide if we can accept what the game of football was, is, and hopefully will continue to be.

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