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Thursday, January 10, 2013

NFL linebacker who committed suicide had brain disease. Time to rethink reaction to Clowney's hit?

Junior Seau, one of the best linebackers in the history of the National Football League, had the brain disease associated with repeated head trauma, the kind that comes from high collision sports such as football, and from war zones.

His family let doctors examine his brain after he committed suicide.

Just a few weeks ago, Jadaveon Clowney of the University of South Carolina skyrocketed to the top of the football world because of one of the most impressive, vicious hits of recent memory.

I wrote this piece in response, arguing that we don't want football to be less violent, no matter the growing evidence of the negative long-term effects of the sport. We even complain when league officials try to change rules to make sure the hits are not as violent and the sport is safer.

In light of the Seau brain examination, is it possible that football fans will at least stop and think through what's going on? And maybe more importantly, will players?

I played for 10 years, through college, and never considered this issue. I know that there is pressure among players and coaches for players to play through pain. When they can perform despite injury and get back up after being on the wrong end of a bad hit, we praise them even more.

I don't know what this ultimately means going forward about football, or whether or not only certain people are susceptible to this type of brain disease from football. While the evidence is growing and this needs to be taken seriously, the question is not settled.

Most importantly for me, though, is that I have an 11-year-old son who wants desperately to play - and now. I've been happy to see him in the backyard with friends throwing the ball around and taking each other to the ground. But allowing him to play organized, big-boy football?

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