Patt Morrison For January 18, 2012

Can we train the next generation of football players to avoid brain injury, or is the problem the sport itself?

Philadelphia Soul v New York Dragons

Mike Stobe/Getty Images for the New York Dr

Quarterback Aaron Garcia #8 of the New York Dragons is attended to by the trainers after suffering a mild concussion during the first half. Garcia did not return for the remainder of the game against the Philadelphia Soul on May 18, 2008 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Soul defeat the Dragons 59-30.

The news keeps getting worse when it comes to the long-term side effects of head injuries in sports like boxing and football. The specter of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and its symptoms – depression, memory loss, irritability, aggression, and confusion – has haunted the NFL for the last few years, but recent studies have revealed that even amateur players at the high school and college level can develop the disease.

In 2010, early CTE, or the long-term swelling of the brain due to repeated concussions, was discovered during the autopsy of Owen Thomas, a 21-year-old junior lineman at the University of Pennsylvania. Thomas had committed suicide by hanging himself. Even without CTE, the risks of high school football are high: just ask Greenville, North Carolina’s J. H. Rose High School Rampants, who lost their running back, Jaquan Waller, in 2008 after he was allowed to play with a mild concussion and received another hit. J.H. Rose changed their medical policy to reflect their growing concern, making sure to have certified sports trainers at every practice and game.


While this is an option for J. H. Rose, which has access to Greenville’s universities and sports medicine programs, is it financially affordable in other, smaller towns? Do you want to see teams train and play more safely? How have you witnessed your own teams making changes to the way they train and play?


Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent and practicing neurosurgeon

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