Bo knows football. But he didn’t know as much as he should have when he was actively playing in the NFL over 20 years ago. And he definitely didn’t know anything about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease haunting NFL players. In an interview with USA Today, Jackson said, “If I knew back then what I know now, I would have never played football. Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.”
What the former baller, once a Pro Bowl running back with the Los Angeles Raiders (and who went on to an illustrious Major League Baseball career with the Kansas City Royals), may have considered an innocuous statement ignited a firestorm of backlash from parents, colleagues, and sports fans who are irate over his negative comments. Jackson defended his football training facility in Illinois, clarifying that they teach kids the proper techniques for playing the game, and the art form of tackling – the focus is not running into each other as hard as possible.
CTE Has a Serious Roots in the NFL
CTE is linked to repeated head trauma and concussions. The effects of this condition are believed to make a person’s brain ultimately deteriorate in some places and enlarge in other, leading to severe mood swings, depression, irrational responses, aggression, and violence.
Jackson has also been attacked by people who say he doesn’t understand anything about concussions or head injuries. “I speak on concussions because I’ve had a couple. I speak on CTE because I have a tendency to forget little things like where I put my keys five minutes ago,” Jackson told USA Today. “I had my bell rung a couple of times while I was with the Raiders. One time I got up off the field, came to the other sideline, and actually sat on the wrong bench. The higher you go up that ladder, the more risks that you are taking because you are dealing with bigger, stronger, faster caliber athletes, and everybody is trying to impress.”
Dr. Bennett Omalu, famously portrayed by Will Smith in the movie Concussion, and who is given credit for establishing the existence of CTE, has estimated that over 90 percent of all NFL players have CTE. Unfortunately, the condition can only be diagnosed after death. Omalu has made it known that he believes O.J. Simpson to be suffering from CTE.
Some of the most famous former footballers who have been officially diagnosed with CTE include:
- Frank Gifford, 84, sports broadcaster and former running back for the New York Giants who endured one of the most brutal hits on the field in NFL history.
- Jovan Belcher, linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs who, at age 25, killed his girlfriend and then himself.
- Junior Seau, former San Diego Chargers linebacker, who took his own life at age 43.
- Tyler Sash, former New York Giants safety, who died of an accidental overdose at age 27, and who, according to his mother, suffered confusion, memory loss, and irregular behavior. It was ultimately determined that Sash had an advanced stage of CTE, especially rare for someone of his young age.
- Kevin Turner, former Philadelphia Eagles running back, who because of his severely advanced stage of CTE also developed ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and died at age 46.
The list of players who have been officially diagnosed as having CTE or were suspected of suffering from the disease goes on and on – Ken Stabler, Mike Webster, Earl Morrall, Ralph Wenzel, Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, and more.
About: David Christensen is a brain injury expert with Christensen Law in Southfield, MI and Ann Arbor, MI. He helps the families of TBI victims in securing benefits and compensation for their injuries.