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Danger in the game


I was very glad to see a piece featured in Friday’s paper about the recent deaths of Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, as I think this is a subject that deserves our attention. The author of Friday’s letter, titled “Kansas City Chiefs suicide prompts questions” stated: “Sometimes people just snap. There is no explanation or understandable cause.” After reading that excerpt from the article the questions prompted in my mind were: Really? No explanation?

Sportscaster Bob Costas heads the group blaming Belcher’s suicide on the “gun culture” in the NFL. I would say that the blame belongs more to the game.

This, tragically, was not some fluke incident. Former NFL players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson both died in the past two-years of self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the chest. And in 2006, former Steelers player Terry Long was so deeply depressed that he drank antifreeze to end his own life.

It’s nothing new that repetitive head trauma is bad for us. Science tells us that large numbers of concussions will lead to a degenerative brain disease which results in anger, confusion and depression. Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy announced last Monday that out of the 34 samples of brain tissue donated by the families of deceased NFL players, only one had no evidence of the disease. It’s also not a coincidence that 75 former NFL players have sued the NFL and their helmet manufacturer for not informing them of the long-term effects of concussions. Many former players have begun to feel the effects of this disease, which I’d bet Belcher was also victim to.

To add outrage to tragedy, the Kansas City Chiefs coaches and Belcher’s own teammates continued the very next day to play a game in the same stadium where Belcher had just killed himself. Some 20-odd hours after a member of their team killed his girlfriend and himself, the Chiefs continued to play the violent game. The fans are just as bad, I remember people tweeting that the Chiefs should “win the game for Jovan Belcher” or for his girlfriend or for his 3-month old daughter — what we should be doing for the victims of this tragedy is protecting the players.

Of course, I have no evidence to definitively state that Belcher’s career was the cause of his demise, but I would suggest that the physical and psychological trauma of being a football player on a national stage was definitely a contributing factor.

As the University makes the transition into the Big Ten, we will take on the reputation of being a school with both a strong basis in research and a competitive football program. To me, this seems to be a pairing as illogical and tightly bound as Romeo and Juliet.

Colleen Thiersch is a School of Engineering junior majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in English.

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