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Mind Over Matter

from what's known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy - a degenerative brain disease associated with depression and dementia. CTE was discovered in the brain tissue of former Philadelphia safety Andre Waters, who committed suicide in 2006. A report in The New York Times cited someone close to Duerson saying he had "expressed concern in recent months he might have had the condition." 

Chilling. That'll make you sit up straight. 

The report went on to say members of the Duerson family contacted representatives from Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, according to Dr. Robert Stern, a co-director of the research group. Stern was quoted as saying, "His wish will hopefully lead to additional scientific answers about the disease." 

That should also get the electrical shock-like attention of the players in today's game, especially with the NFL trying to crack down hard on eliminating blows to the heads of quarterbacks and unprotected players, no excuses. Should get your attention, too. Far too many times when this subject is discussed we hear about how the NFL is "putting skirts" on the players, that this still is a "man's game." And that's right, this is a man's game, just not a gladiator's game. It's tough enough we sacrifice life in war, but heavens we need not those later in life because of our games

Hopefully guys such as the Steelers' James Harrison wakes up and notices. He was fined four times this past season for blows to the head, costing him roughly $125,000. Of course, he did not agree with those decisions, and at one point during the season was quoted as saying, "We were playing the way we play 'Steelers ball.' That's fast and hard. I'm just going to play the game the way I've been taught to play and let the cards fall where they may." 

He is not the only current player who feels this way, but maybe the most vocal. That's the even scarier part. 

This also is why the NFL is becoming more vigilant monitoring players who have suffered concussions, and making sure teams do not treat these post-concussion symptoms cavalierly. The NFL is announcing new sideline protocols for monitoring and diagnosing concussions from the combine in Indianapolis on Friday. This also is why further studies are being conducted on making safer helmets. 

Concussions are serious business. Maybe seemingly not during the heat of the battle or even during careers when young men feel invincible. But the cumulative affects later in life, as we seem to be seeing more and more, can be deadly in some form or fashion. No need to play games with our mortality. 

Had this been today, not January of 1994, there is a chance Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman would not have been allowed to play in Super Bowl XXVIII after suffering a concussion in the NFC Championship when there was not a two-week window between games. 

A tough choice was made this past college football season by Tre Newton, son of former Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton, to give up football at the University of Texas after having suffered multiple concussions during his career. As old-school football as Nate is, he knew the decision was a no-brainer. That's his son, man. 

And just the other day (Feb. 22), I read this quote in The Dallas Morning News from Dallas Stars leading scorer Brad Richards, who had yet to return to the ice after suffering a severe blow to the head in a game back on Feb. 13, no doubt a concussion but what is usually and vaguely called in the NHL an upper-body injury: 

"I would have liked to have been on the ice today, but I don't think that's safe for my health or good for anybody. I'll wake up tomorrow and keep plugging away. 

"The thing that is frustrating is it's your brain. It puts things in perspective. It's not a bone, it's not a hip I'm going to go get fixed. It's your brain. So whether it's frustrating or not, this is the one thing where you have to make sure everything is right." 

Everything, and beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

The NFL should be applauded in these efforts to make the game as safe as possible, and maybe even prodded to do even more to protect players - even from themselves. The players should demand as much, not tug the other way.

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