With each month, it seems the answer shifts closer and closer to “no.”
Today the legendary linebacker Junior Seau died of a gunshot wound to the chest. It is presently being treated as a possible suicide. It is eerily similar to the death of Dave Duerson, who played safety during the 80s and 90s. Duerson shot himself in the chest, and indicated before his death that he wanted his brain to be used in research. Subsequently, researchers found evidence of brain damage.
The type of damage observed in Duerson, and in 14 out of 15 NFL players tested by this research group, is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE can come about not just because of multiple concussions, but due to repeated, sub-concussive head trauma – exactly the type that NFL players are subjected to routinely.
It’s also worth noting that today a New Orleans Saints player was banned for the 2012-2013 season for his part in a scandal where Saints defensive players were paid “bounties” for delivering maximally violent hits that knocked opposing players – particularly quarterbacks – out of the game.
I like watching football. But by doing so, I worry that I am contributing to a system that results in the neurodegeneration of a large group of athletes who are essentially being used and chewed out by a morally indefensible system. I am not yet at the point where I refuse to watch football on principle. But maybe I should be.