There has been a lot of talk the past couple years about the issues of concussions, CTE, and brain trauma for current and former professional athletes. As CTE has become a bigger deal, more players have offered to donate their brain to science after they pass in order to further research into the issue.
The latest to join this group is former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross. He announced plans to donate his brain back in February, joining 29 other retired players in committing their brain to science after they die. Earlier this week, Cross wrote an article at The Players’ Tribune detailing his reasons. He talked about how he viewed head injuries before and during his playing career, and then how he learned more about the issue.
What I found most fascinating was his reasoning for donating his brain. He does not believe he is experiencing symptoms of CTE. He deals with plenty of physical issues related to football, and acknowledges his memory isn’t great, but feels he is still plenty active.
I still do regular media appearances and hammer out 45 minutes of cardio every single morning. By all accounts, I think I live a pretty active lifestyle. And that’s why I strongly believe it’s important for my brain to be studied alongside those of other players.
He makes an excellent point about needing to have a full range of samples in considering the effects of football and head trauma. When a player has developed dementia or Alzheimer’s, or is dealing with clear-cut symptoms, then it is no surprise when their brain shows signs of CTE after their death. Cross is not experiencing these issues, but that does not mean he does not have CTE. Adding his brain to the mix will help provide another perspective.
And he also recognizes that the league does not have a true incentive to deal with the issue of brain trauma. The league will offer up some ideas and comments and make donations, but they do not seem fully committed to trying to fix the issue. As Cross put it, they’re making billions of dollars off player labor, so it is easy to not feel fully motivated to address the problem.
I don’t believe that the entities making billions of dollars off of our labor are going to fully commit to fixing this problem. As long as there are college and professional players willing to accept the currently known risks and strap on a helmet, there is not a whole lot of motivation for these large organizations to change things in a meaningful way. So it’s incumbent upon us former players to lead the charge ... We as former players own the ultimate study material for scientists. So it just doesn’t feel right to withhold it from people who actively are searching for a solution.
We seem to be a long way off from a cure, and even just figuring out ways to fully diagnose the disease while players are alive. The more players taking part in these studies, the better it will be in figuring out how to address the many issues related to brain trauma.