Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Brain Drain: The Concussion Problem in the NFL written by William W.

This is the the third full article by William W. (aka Billy w) that has been featured here on The Guest Writer Blog. Over the past year William (Billy) like his evolving blog name has shown much growth and maturing in his writing style and in the topics he chooses to write about.

With the recent suicide of football Hall of Famer, Junior Seau, this article is a timely piece on a topic which had made many headlines in sports, medical and general news around the world. Thank you Billy for sharing this with us.
 - Randall Webb

To see other articles written by William W. please visit his blog at: http://www.sportspinandstuff-billyw.blogspot.com/

Brain Drain: The Concussion Problem in the NFL   

Written by William W. 


February 17, 2011, April 19, 2012, May 2, 2012, are all dates that will live on forever. Why? They are all the dates of NFL player suicides. Dave Duerson, a safety for the infamous Chicago Bears defense of the 1980s commit suicide on February 17 of last year. Ray Easterling, a cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left us on April 19th, and yesterday, legendary linebacker Junior Seau died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. All of them played in the NFL, all of them were reported to suffer concussions, but that was before anyone really knew what a concussion actually was or what the terrifying repercussions may be. Now, we know that a concussion occurs when the brain itself slams into the skull, often causing severe headaches and nausea. However, when concussions go unnoticed and continue to occur, life-threatening damage can result. Players, especially at high-impact positions like corner, running back, linebacker, defensive and offensive line, and wide receiver, have complained of bodily harm after retiring since the game's conception. Football is a violent game, as we all know. However, they didn't realize that their brains were slowly being destroyed. NFL players have higher rates of suicide--six times the national average to be specific--Alzheimers, and even depression. Some have lost complete bodily function, like Eric LeGrand, a defensive lineman who, in symbolic gesture, was signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After suffering a debilitating spinal chord injury, many doctors said he would be forced to live off a respirator and be paralyzed for the rest of his life. This is just the beginning of an issue that is just now coming to life. 


Before one can fully understand the problem concussions actually are, it is necessary for a brief overview of what being concussed actually means. The simple definition mentioned above is sufficient for a non-football concussion. In the NFL, a defensive back like Duerson or Easterling can tackle a player with over 1,600lbs. of force, and a linebacker like Seau could hit even harder. Keep in mind a Smart Car weights 1,609lbs. These guys hit each other with the force of a small car, yet the NFL doesn't think concussions could cause dangerous side-effects. An insurance company pays better than the NFL. That's saying something. A concussion occurs much more often then players themselves think. Let's assume a 6'3, 250lb linebacker who runs a 4.6 forty yard dash hits a player with the force of 2,000lbs. The running back, like the linebacker, is running at full speed. A collision occurs. The both players go from full-speed to full-stop. Their helmets protect their skulls, but it only hurts their brains, as the brain continues moving even after the head stops, causing a concussion. The force necessary to cause a concussion gets progressively less as each one occurs, though the severity of the consequences increase exponentially. The linebacker walks off the field for a few plays, while the running back only feels dazed and gets back in the huddle. The running back knows his time in the league will most likely end by his thirtieth birthday, and he needs to support his family. He has to go back in the game, thus he puts his career, and his life on the line. There's clearly a problem, and only recently has the NFL decided to make a change for the better.


Dave Duerson was a safety and defensive back for the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants. He was an All-American at Notre Dame, and a Super Bowl champion with the Bears. He had the record for most sacks by a defensive back with seven until it was broken by the Cardinals' Adrian Wilson. As a pass-rusher along with being a defensive enforcer in the secondary, he supposedly had multiple concussions in his career, though they were, at the time, considered "getting your bell rung" and nothing more. At the time, a player would have his teammates help him up and stagger back to the huddle. Duerson was one of those players. He loved the game. He was a warrior. He got back into the huddle...a lot. After retiring in 1993, his condition quickly deteriorated. According to his son and ex-wife, he had trouble spelling words, suffered from Alzheimers, dementia, and had a terrible short-term memory. In the years leading up to his death, he was accused of many "spur of the moment" crimes, such as battery or domestic abuse, most likely because he could no longer make decisions without seriously contemplating his options for a substantial amout of time. One doctor who analyzed his brain was surprised Duerson was even capable of WALKING. In his final act, he shot himself in the chest to save his brain and left the note shown above. He knew something was wrong, and he decided to make a change for the better by donating his brain to science. Duerson's brain was shown to have a protein deficiency known as CTE caused by significant, and most importantly repeated, brain trauma. His brain was literally being destroyed bit by bit. His family has received nothing. All because the NFL refused to acknowledge football played a factor.


Ray Easterling, also a safety, was a player for the Atlanta Falcons. A defensive captain, he was a key player for a team that had arguably the best defensive season of all time. With a tough defense, players get competitive. There's nothing worse for a man's brain than to put him in front of millions of people and surround him with twenty-one other testosterone-fueled men. He tries to get the knockout, the highlight hit, the devastating tackle that knocks out the star offensive player. That's exactly what happened with the Falcons. After retiring, his body was destroyed. He had over twenty orthopedic surgeries, and was, like Duerson, was diagnosed with dementia. In an interview with Fox Sports Network, his wife Mary Ann, said:


“He had been feeling more and more pain. He felt like his brain was falling off. He was losing control. He couldn’t remember things from five minutes ago. It was frightening, especially somebody who had all the plays memorized as a player when he stepped on the field.”
     Easterling committed suicide, like Duerson, by shooting himself in the chest to preserve his brain for study. His brain was also found to contain tau, a key sign for the existence of CTE. Easterling, like Duerson, was a part of a lawsuit suing the NFL over, according to Easterling's lawyer:
"Continuously and vehemently denied that it knew, should have known or believed that there is any relationship between NFL players suffering concussions while playing . . . and long-term problems such as headaches, dizziness, dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease that many retired players have experienced."

  Junior Seau was a Hall of Fame linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots. He hit with a ferocity only seen in gladiatorial death matches. He was a warrior. He never went on the disabled list for a concussion, though, according to his ex-wife, he suffered many of the symptoms. He was depressed, hard to believe for such an upbeat man, and had the symptoms of CTE that afflicted Duerson and Easterling. He was accused of battery, a sign of a heightened sense of aggression that has been linked to brain damage and a possible lack of decision making ability.  He too shot himself in the chest to save his brain for testing. It doesn't do Seau justice to simply say he played with the joy of a boy but the intensity and heart of a man, it doesn't do him justice to write a few paragraphs, let alone a few sentences. It doesn't do Junior Seau justice to leave his family unpaid for something football caused. 

     Only recently has the National Football League taken a stand against concussions and overly violent play. Commissioner Roger Goodell has become one of, if not the most, controversial commissioners in all of professional sports. He made it clear in late 2010 that concussions were a problem and harsh penalties would be brought upon those who refused to follow the new, safer rules. Some have lauded this stance, while others claim this is just the beginning of a gradual shift to the NFFL, the National Flag-Football League, where nobody can tackle anyone. They fear the "Glory Days" in which the Bears could literally break the backs of their opponents and the Purple People Eaters could probably get away with actually eating their offensive victims. These people fail to realize the days of vicious defense and ruthless hits are over. The very hits we used to celebrate are now the same hits we fear may contribute to an terrible, life-threatening injury and eventually a violence-filled life after football riddled with bouts of depression, dementia, and possibly suicide. A change has to be made. Now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I’ll Take “Zen Master in Training” for $200… written by Supermom

The Supermom Liberation Project is a blog written by a mom of 3 crazy high maintenance kids, whom she refers to as "The Munchkins". She is the life partner of one super-cool calm and collected Tattooed Guy who keeps her from losing her mind.

Supermom describes herself as being :
Confessed Chocoholic
Bold Word Addict 
Professional Daydreamer 
Lover of Salsa Dancing   (and Salsa eating)
World Traveler Wanna-be 
Blogger Extraordinaire
Rockstar of Life

With her blog she hopes to help moms around the world to liberate the fun, smart, sexy, awesome Supermom who is YOU!

you can visit The Supermom Liberation Project @ http://supermomliberationproject.com/

I’ll Take “Zen Master in Training” for $200… Written by Supermom

Why is it that no matter what you try to do, whether it be raise your kids as you see fit, live a life of generosity and kindness, try to get ahead in your career (or start a new one), or even travel down the path of self-reflection and improvement, there is always someone who has to voice their disapproval in an attempt to bring you down? I totally hate that – it’s one of my biggest pet-peeves!

Example: So I’m laying in bed last night after a busy day of launching my blog and I decide to check Facebook one last time before I fall asleep (mistake #1), only to find a snide comment under one of my posts left by a “friend”, who obviously does not approve of my new venture. As having “thick skin” is not one of my strong points, I lay there questioning why she would do such a thing, and in a public forum no less (mistake #2). At the same time, I did have a fan who shared my post and gave it a great review (which I am very appreciative of – THANK YOU!!), saying that she loved what I had written and was looking forward to reading more. Despite that, though, the pissy, bitchy little comment was all I could think about. For the next 20 minutes, I lay there in bed trying to figure out how to respond. Do I confront her? Do I type a pissy, bitchy message back for all to see? Or do I try to forget about it and not let it bother me (almost impossible).

Tattoo Guy (in case you haven’t read the “About” page, he is my calm, cool, and collected life partner) said “Don’t worry about it, Baby – who cares what she thinks. You’re trying to spread a message that is important to you, and probably to a lot of other women too. And, you know, she only has the power to upset you if you give it to her.” Excellent point…and after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that he’s absolutely right. (Wow, my man is a total Zen Master in training!)

In the end, I just deleted it. No response, no confrontation, nothing. Why? Because, I realized that giving any attention to this petty b.s. would have given this woman even more power – and, after all, that’s what this was all about, right? Her slighting my work made her feel powerful; she tried to break my spirit, hurt my self-esteem, and make me feel bad, all because she didn’t like what I had to say. And, any type of negative response on my part would have just validated her statement.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because, this type of thing – criticism and judgment – is what we moms face EVERYDAY from friends, family members, acquaintances, and society in general.

This needs to stop!

Come on, Ladies – we are all women, we are all individuals who have our own values, beliefs, and identities, and we are all simply trying to the the best we can with what we have. With that being said, what if instead of putting each other down, we made a conscious, deliberate effort to start encouraging of each other? What if we put our own personal opinions and biases aside and started affirming one another? I, personally, think that would be pretty damn awesome!

I constantly hear people passing judgment: “Can you believe she did that? She should have done ________ instead. She’s gonna be sorry, just you wait and see”. To which I reply “Well, everyone has to live their own life. What’s right for you may not be right for her.” (though in my head I’m thinking WILL YOU FREAKIN’ STOP IT ALREADY! HOW ABOUT YOU STOP BEING A JUDGMENTAL PAIN IN THE ASS AND GIVE HER SOME GOD-DAMNED SUPPORT!!!) Maybe one day I’ll sum up the courage to say that out loud. Who knows, my inner self still a work in progress…

My point is we need to start being each others’ biggest cheerleaders! We need to start bonding together as a community of sisters and build each other up not cut each other down!! And we need to start right here, right now… TODAY!

Just imagine, if everyone did that, what an even more wonderful, amazing world this would be. And just imagine, if you had the support of your friends, family, and peer group, how much more you could achieve! In my life, I’ve found that frequently one of the biggest things that holds us back from being the very best we can be is fear of what other people will say – either to us or about us to others. Imagine if that was taken out of the equation entirely and you had nothing but support and encouragement. That’s the goal – let’s try to make support and positive validation of each other the norm instead of the exception.


You know, give her a sincere compliment – tell her you like her outfit, tell her how well-mannered her kids are, or tell her what a great job she’s been doing in general. And, if she does something that makes you want to pass judgment, DON’T! Bite your tongue, take a deep breath, and realize that the things other people do, in the grand scheme of things, have NO effect on your life UNLESS YOU ALLOW THEM TO!

For one month practice being a supporter. You can do it… you know why? Because you’re a Supermom! You’ve got this; you’re in control of your emotions and you’re going to start spreading a little, extra positivity in the world! (Not to mention that you’ll be setting a great example for the kids to follow too. I’m working on this as a way to get the Munchkins to stop fighting with and tattling on each other all the time. Because frankly, their fighting and tattling drives me FREAKIN’ CRAZY!)

Until next time, Ladies – LIVE YOUR AWESOMENESS!

(oh, and don’t forget – BUCKETLISTS! … DO IT!)