For five of the past six seasons, attendance at NCAA football games has broken records. Nearly 49.7 million attended college football games last year, according to the NCAA, which doesn’t include the 127 million who watched TV games. What the audience and, most importantly, the players themselves aren’t aware of is the potentially devastating long-term damage collegiate football athletes face from concussions.
The Sports Legacy Institute, a Boston-based non-profit agency, is asking the NCAA to warn college athletes about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disorder linked to repetitive brain injuries. While NFL players are warned about CTE, which manifests itself in myriad ailments including depression, memory loss and early dementia, college players aren’t given enough information so that they can choose whether to risk injury, the SLI says.
“We need to appreciate the irony of asking scholarship athletes to trade a free education for the risk of a degenerative brain disease that may minimize the benefit of that education,” former Harvard University football player and SLI co-founder Chris Nowinski said in a statement. “Athletes deserve to have informed consent and the opportunity to modify their behavior based on established science.”
After years of ignoring pleas from former players and the medical community, the NFL began informing pro players about brain injury risks about three years ago. Still, more than 2,200 former players allege in lawsuits that they were affected by CTE. Some say CTE might have led former star NFL player Junior Seau to kill himself on May 2. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, among the legal issues arising from the NFL lawsuits is whether the brain injury occurred during college or high school football games.