It's quite possible I owe Chris Henry an apology. Indeed the line to do so eventually could stretch as long as a city block.
Henry was often savaged as a conscious-less brute by many in the media and even a few people within the NFL. Now, there may be new information that demonstrates Henry and other players could've had reasons for their serially disturbing behavior and seeming inability to quell their demons.
|Researchers found Henry suffered from a brain injury, possibly incurred during his football career. (US Presswire)|
A new form of brain study is beginning to create a disturbing picture and this is what that picture is saying. NFL players (and some other athletes) suffer extreme head trauma called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE then creates a nasty cauldron of emotional volatility that severely and chronically impairs judgment.
Experts are beginning to think that CTE is possibly the main culprit for why some troubled athletes behave the way they do.
Researchers say they've discovered CTE in the autopsied brains of 50 former athletes, including NFL and college football players. They theorize that concussive hits lead to the buildup of a protein that disrupts the neural network and causes mental ailments such as depression and loss of control.
These findings are a big deal. A very big deal. They are basically saying that playing sports in which there is a high risk of concussive activity can lead to long-term damages even if the time spent in the sport is non-extensive.
At the very least the latest news regarding Henry should cause everyone -– from the average fan to commissioner Roger Goodell to the union to the parent who allows their kids play Pop Warner -– a great moment of pause.
"I'm not calling for the eradication of football, no," Dr. Bennet Omalu, who examined Henry and other deceased players, said in published reports. "I'm asking for full disclosure to players. Like the surgeon general considers smoking to be dangerous to your health, repeated impacts of the brain are dangerous to your health and will affect you later in life. Period. The players need to know this.
"I think it's an epidemic. It's beneath the radar. We simply didn't identify it [early enough]. The more I encounter NFL players, the more I realize it is much more prevalent than we had identified."
Is Pacman Jones simply a jerk or is he sufferer of this phenomenon? What about Ben Roethlisberger? Michael Vick? Travis Henry? Brandon Marshall? On and on it potentially could go.
It's in the economic interest of the NFL, union and others to ignore this problem but the science is making CTE impossible to ignore any longer.
This is a controversial and complex subject that's certain to cause some media and fans to scratch their heads and energize their doubt.
How people view these remarkable new studies and astounding pieces of information will greatly vary. Some will see the science as nonsense and excuse-making. Others, like me, are beginning to see some of these players in an entirely new way.
One of many disturbing aspects about what doctors from the Brain Injury Research Institute at West Virginia University say they know is that Henry's brain was badly damaged despite a short NFL career that ended last year when he died falling off a truck driven by his fiancée during a domestic dispute.
Henry played in just 55 NFL games, starting in 12 of them. There are NFL players with far longer careers who endure far more head trauma than Henry ever did.
It's possible Henry was damaged before he got into the NFL. Indeed, Henry's college career also featured poor decision making.
The study of Henry's brain potentially offers some redemption for the troubled player. How much redemption will be up for debate -- and not just for Henry but possibly a great many other athletes as well.