Tag:Brain Injuries
Posted on: September 29, 2010 4:30 pm

Boise State safety Venable suspended for one half

Posted by Adam Jacobi

When Boise State kicks off their conference season against powerhouse (cough) New Mexico State this weekend, they'll be doing so without one of their leaders on defense. Winston Venable, a senior safety, was suspended one half by WAC commissioner Karl Benson after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers. From Benson:

"After reviewing this play, it was determined that a flagrant personal foul should have been called by the game officials which would have resulted in the player being ejected" said WAC commissioner Karl Benson.

Rodgers, who wasn't even the ball-carrier on the play (it was a quarterback scramble by Ryan Katz), suffered a concussion and appeared to lose consciousness briefly.

The WAC was planning on suspending Venable for a game before a Boise State appeal cut the punishment in half. The Broncos obviously don't need to have Venable in their secondary to beat NMSU; heck, they could throw head coach Chris Peterson back there and still win by 30. But preparation and routine are important in football, and it'll be easier for Venable to stay in the proper mindset for the season if he's going through practice and preparing to actually be on the field come Saturday -- even if the game could be such a blowout that the rest of the starters will be ordered to sit at the half.

To the larger point, though, it's nice to see a commissioner's office take some proactive steps to combat this sort of thing. Venable's hit didn't make a lot of sense from a football perspective; he didn't try to shed the block, he just decided to initiate the inevitable contact rather than absorb it, and he laid a hellacious hit on Rodgers. Of course, while he was doing that, Katz was staying on his feet and picking up the first down. Tactically, it was a dumb decision, and it ended up being a pretty dangerous one too. Football's got to start actively avoiding that style of play; it's not "dirty" in the normal sense of the word, but it leads to enough brain injury -- on both sides and both immediate and cumulative -- that it's in everybody's best interests to stop such play.

Posted on: September 13, 2010 9:57 pm

Former Penn captain who killed self had C.T.E.

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Earlier today, we questioned the sanity of allowing Houston QB Case Keenum to return to action for the Cougars after sustaining a concussion during play on the previous Friday. And while we can try to conjure as many different synonyms for "reckless" as possible to describe the situation, it's really not as likely to resonate as an argument without a tangible example of the dangers involved. 

Unfortunately, new details about those exact dangers emerged just today, as the New York Times reported that Penn student Owen Thomas, the former lineman and captain of the Quakers who hanged himself at the age of 21, was found to be suffering from the same type of degenerative brain disease that has recently been associated with long football careers. The disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (or C.T.E.), can cause a host of serious mental problems in those afflicted with it, including substance abuse, suicidal depression, and symptoms similar to Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's Disease. Most notably, it was also found in an autopsy of Chris Henry, the former Cincinnati Bengals and West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver who died after falling out of his fiancee's truck in a bizarre incident last year.

The most harrowing aspect of the revelations about Henry and Thomas is that neither man was ever diagnosed with a concussion, and neither had an extensive football career past middle school. Henry played one of the least contact-intensive positions in the sport, and while Thomas was on the other end of that spectrum, he was also only a 21-year-old junior when he began the mental collapse that ended in his apartment months later.

Worse, as of last year, 20 deceased football players had been tested for CTE--some who had exhibited no symptoms whatsoever--upon autopsy. 19 tested positive. Thus, considering Thomas' history in the sport and his subsequent quick descent into suicidal depression, it would have been far more surprising if the 21-year-old Thomas hadn't had CTE. That should be frightening for every single fan of the sport of football--and even moreso for parents of young football players.

And yet Houston coach Kevin Sumlin won't give Keenum a week off after Keenum's concussion. Just something to think about.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com