Part 2: NFL TBI Recovery. Brain Scientist Says That He Would Let His Son Play Football
My name is Peter Cummings. I am a forensic pathologist and a neuropathologist, which means I study brain trauma for a living. I am also a football coach and I let my 11-year-old son play football. I may be the only neuropathologist on Earth who lets his kid play football. Before I began this journey, football was banned in my house. I wouldn’t even watch it on TV because I didn’t want my son to see it and develop a desire to play. Despite my efforts, he discovered football via a video game. He immediately fell in love with the sport and I was forced to do some serious soul searching: Should I allow him to pursue his interest and play? CTE stands for “chronic traumatic encephalopathy”; in real words it means damage to the brain caused by repetitive injury. The hallmark of CTE is the deposition of a protein called ‘tau’ in the brain. Tau has a number of functions, including stabilizing the structure of nerve cells. When nerves are injured, tau builds up and can cause problems. You may have a read about a recently published paper reporting the presence of CTE in the brains of 99 percent of former National Football League players examined. The findings of this study sent the media into a frenzy and produced a lot of negative press toward football. As a result of the media attention, people are now saying there should be no more youth football; there are even people who are insinuating I am abusing my son by allowing him to play football. So, when you hear “99 percent of football players had CTE,” that doesn’t mean that almost every football player will get CTE, and it doesn’t mean your child has a 99-percent chance of developing CTE if he or she plays football. It means 99 percent of a specifically selected study sample had some degree of CTE; not 99 percent of the general football population. This is an important distinction.