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The Possible Consequences of NFL Players' On-field Concussions

Linda Carroll with NBC posits the theory that concussion-related brain injuries could be fueling the legal problems currently plaguing the NFL ("Could Brain Injuries Be Behind the NFL Rap Sheet?") Texas authorities have accused star Vikings running back Adrian Peterson of hitting his child with a switch made of a stripped tree branch. Peterson faces charges for child abuse. The Vikings played the off-again, on-again, off-again game with Peterson, but seems to have settled on suspending Peterson for the time being.

In reference to whether or not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has considered resigning over the ongoing scandals (of which Peterson's scandal is just one), the NY Times gives us this quote: "I have not. I am focused on doing my job. I understand when people are critical of my performance, but we have work to do. [...] We've acknowledged that we need to make changes and now we have to get those changes going."

What is chronic traumatic encephalopathy?

In her NBC report, Carroll points toward chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, as the possible culprit behind some NFL players' behavior. According to Boston University's CTE Center, CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes and other people who have a history of repetitive brain damage.

The CTE Center says that the potential health consequences of CTE include:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impulse control problems
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Dementia

Aggression, in particular, is what is taking headlines these days. The allegations against Peterson and running back Ray Rice (Rice's case involved aggravated assault for punching his then fiancé, now wife) both involve violence.

What is the NFL's position?

For its part, the NFL seems to be in damage-control mode, at least when it comes to managing public perception. In the wake of the cases against Peterson and Rice, among others, the NFL has generally been accused of being too permissive with its players, at least when it comes to domestic and sexual violence, and corporate sponsors have either backed out of sponsorships or have threatened to do so.

According to the NY Times, Goodell has "vowed" to make changes to the NFL's personal conduct policy, but did not elaborate on what that would entail.

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