The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, January 6, 2017

LBD and Football: How Do You Vote?

Last week's blog was about how repeated concussions from playing football can cause LBD symptoms to show up sooner and be more aggressive. But even if LBD isn't involved, CTE* is very likely to occur, causing its own type of dementia and an early death. I believe this is a cultural issue. By making football a national sport, by making the players heroes and stars, we show that we care more for our entertainment now than we do for their future health. As a culture, we are encouraging our sons to unwittingly trade their old age and their very lives for our entertainment. We've become a nation of people joyfully sending our own sons out into the arena to fight the lion of football.

And that's why I boycott football. I believe it is the individual person, you and I, who will eventually make the difference. Not the players, whose short term vision is on the adulation and money the get now, not on the, to them, unlikely chance that they will eventually have CTE. Not the NFL, that makes the big bucks on game. Not the coaches, who need to keep winning to keep their jobs. No, it is up to each of us. When we stop supporting the game, it will either change drastically or it will stop being worth playing.

One of the questions I get is, "Well, what about other sports. Boxing, for instance." Well, boxers use their fists as weapons. Football players use their heads. Even when the player leads with his shoulder, the head will absorb some of the impact. A recent article in our local newspaper reported that the average impact speed of a football player tackling a stationary player is 25 mph, compared to a professional boxer's punch of only 20 mph. If you deduct several mph for the average boxer's punch, the difference will be even greater.

One way that many of our local schools are trying to reduce concussions is by providing better helmets. This is no small thing; these helmets cost from $400 to $600 each! But the consensus is that even with the better helmets, concussions are likely to be an ever-present issue. It will continue to be an issue as long as players use their head as a weapon. The article suggests better education of coaches and players about the risks and coaching proper techniques, but it goes on to say that support for this is poor because "People are used to playing the way it is played."

Spectators are used to the violence and expect (demand?) it. I've never been a spectator sports fanatic. And so I'm at a disadvantage now, in my effort to boycott football. I can't say I used to love it but stopped when I learned how it damaged our children. But Jim, now, he really enjoys a good football game. He still watches. Yes, you can see how well my boycott is working. Even my husband, who has been active with Lewy body dementia since 2003, still watches football! But that means I can use him as a guinea pig. "Why do you watch?" I ask.

"It's exciting," he says.

"But, knowing what you know, how can you continue to watch?" I ask.

He shrugs. It's there. It will be there whether he turns the TV off or not. And so he turns it on.

I remember back to the 1980's when smokers were in the majority and it was considered bad form for non-smokers to complain. That changed when researcher found that smoking was bad, not just for the smoker, but for anyone around them. Non-smokers became more verbal. Restaurants started banning cigarettes. We voted higher taxes on cigarettes. People began to quit, one by one. Eventually, smokers became a minority.

I think we have to do the same with watching football. We have to accept our responsibility just as smokers had to accept theirs. Each person who watches football on TV or in a stadium helps to turn our young men into eventual dementia patients.

That's pretty extreme, you say? You say that this is the life they chose? That they get paid good money for it? Besides, I'm not responsible for these men. This is America. They have the right to choose to play or not. Who am I to stand in their way?

True. But, what young man really thinks about their old age at 18 or 20? Or believes that in a few years they will have dementia? Or turns down big bucks now because in 10, 20, 30 years they may have major health problems? We make it much too attractive!

Ah, you say. We aren't doing anything. It's the NFL that makes it attractive. That pays the big bucks.

Yes, but would they pay those big bucks if the TVs stayed off and the stadiums were empty? What are YOU going to do? How are you going to vote? Will you vote for more dementia, or less? You vote one way or the other every time you watch or don't watch a football game. You can't opt out. You DO vote. How are you voting?

Reference: Decker R: Better helmets still not solution to concussions. Cronkite News. Arizona Republic. The Weekend. 12.31.16.

* Acronyms:
LBD: Lewy body dementia
CTE: chronic traumatic encephalopathy

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

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