Chris Henry - The NFL and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

We all remember Chris Henry though I didn't remember exactly how he died at first.  A few months back he ended up in a fight with his girlfriend then jumped out or was thrown out of the bed of her moving truck.  1 Day, massive brain trauma and a fractured skull later he was pronounced dead.  The toxicology report showed nothing out of the ordinary, no alcohol or drugs in his system.  In 2007 when Henry had been arrested for the fifth time a judge called him "a one man crime wave."  He was given another chance and turned his life around.  Or so it seemed anyway.  So what would cause him to act in the manner leading up to his death?  After the jump it brings a whole new aspect to the NFL's brain injury prevention system in place.  It may begin to rewrite the way we look at sports and their effect on the brain in general...

Chris Henry had never had a documented concussion.  He wasn't carried off the field like Jahvid Best.  All the same.  Chris Henry, was punch drunk.  From Yahoo

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry suffered from a chronic brain injury that may have influenced his mental state and behavior before he died last winter, West Virginia University researchers said Monday.

The doctors had done a microscopic tissue analysis of Henry’s brain that showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes and California medical examiner Bennet Omalu, co-directors of the Brain Injury Research Institute at WVU, announced their findings alongside Henry’s mother, Carolyn Henry Glaspy, who called it a “big shock” because she knew nothing about her 26-year-old son’s underlying condition or the disease.


Chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  Most people outside of the long time fight fan have never heard of this condition, or at least, they think they haven't.  Its commonly referred to as punch drunk.  And as boxing fans who have lost treasured heroes in Arturo "thunder" Gatti, (suspicious though his death may be, it was ruled a suicide) and Diego "Chico" Corrales, (riding his motorcycle down the Las Vegas strip at over 100MPH piss drunk just a couple days after a loss that likely closed the book on his career), know... it can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, trouble with interpersonal relationships, depression and suicide. 


Bailes and fellow researchers believe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is caused by multiple head impacts, regardless of whether those blows result in a concussion diagnosis. A number of studies, including one commissioned by the NFL, have found that retired professional football players may have a higher rate than normal of Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems.

What’s interesting, Bailes said, is that Henry was only 26, and neither NFL nor WVU records show he was diagnosed with a concussion during his playing career.


So where is the connection exactly?  My picture I have as my avatar is Chico Corrales and for anybody that had seen him rise through the ranks and watched his incredible come from behind victory against Jose Luis Castillo in one of the most brutal battles of all-time you knew he was an inspirational fighter.  But those battles took their toll.  By the time of his death, his speech, once clear and concise, (he often guested as a commentator and had a true knack for that side of the game too), had begun to slur and all that cared for him in the sport were calling for his retirement.  This was a case of a fighter clearly having taken a lifetime of punishment and needing to call it quits.  CTE was beginning to set in on Chico and it was noticeable.

Now to juxtapose the situation.  Most of us know nothing about Henry's childhood and any potential damage done while growing up.  But it seems that all current evidence is pointing to everyday, routine contact in the NFL leading to serious brain damage.  This is the case with Henry even in the absence of any noted heavy trauma.  If guys like Henry are ending up punch drunk by the time they are 26 doesn't this threaten the very nature of football?  Guys are only getting bigger, stronger and faster and hitting harder.  Is the future of the NFL having 50% of their players retire brain dead?

Omalu first came across CTE, a condition often seen in boxers, after studying the brain of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame lineman Mike Webster. Webster died in 2002 of a heart attack at age 50. He had suffered brain damage that left him unable to work following his career.

Bailes said he and Omalu have now analyzed the brains of 27 modern athletes, and the majority showed evidence of CTE.

What is the NFL to do here?  RIP Chris Henry.  I used to think you were just an irresponsible loon...  Looks and apparently the damage of playing football, can be deceiving.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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