NFL players union funds $100 million Harvard study on injury

Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:21pm EST
 

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - The union that represents U.S. professional football players has given Harvard University a $100 million grant for a study of the range of health problems, from brain damage to heart conditions, that affect current and former players.

Researchers with Harvard Medical School plan to spend a decade studying hundreds of former players who are members of the National Football League Players Association, university officials said on Tuesday. The aim is to develop strategies to limit the long-term damage that players suffer from years of hits on the field.

The recent suicides of a spate of former NFL players, including 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, have raised concerns about the toll that blows to the head take on the brains of current and former players.

Scientists have found that years of steady, small hits can lead to a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which at its start can cause victims to have a hard time concentrating on small tasks and eventually can lead to aggression and dementia.

The worries are not limited to the pros, who are part of a $9 billion U.S. industry. Parents of players, from peewee leagues to college, have raised concerns about the game and leagues have changed rules to limit hits to the head.

Those concerns reach all the way to the White House.

"I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football," President Barack Obama said in an interview with the New Republic magazine published on Sunday, a week before the Super Bowl championship will be played in New Orleans.

Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Flier said the research would aim to address health concerns at all levels of play.   Continued...

 
New York Giants tackle Sean Lockler is loaded on to a cart after suffering an injury against the Washington Redskins in the second half of their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland December 3, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron