According to some sports conspiracy theorists, the NFL has been concealing the true damage that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has on the physical and mental integrity of players who have suffered from multiple concussions after they retire. The league even acknowledged its complicity in concealing how bad the condition truly is by agreeing to pay $765 million in damages to ex-players. But the NFL might not be the only guilty party.
Several days ago, Major League Baseball revealed that it was taking steps to remove home plate collisions from the sport because of the unnecessary danger inherent in high speed crashes between catchers who protect the plate and the base runners. While purists are dismayed at this move, others feel it is a long-overdue step towards making the game safer.
The move comes as reports of the suicide death of former Cincinnati Reds Ryan Freel last December that sent shockwaves throughout the league. Freel suffered 10 concussions in his eight year career. And while some had hypothesized that his suicide may have had something to do with CTE, there was no scientific proof, nor league precedent, to support that theory.
CNN reports that Freel has become the first MLB player to have been officially diagnosed with CTE. Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine released the results of the study, which was headed by Robert Stearn of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, on Sunday. Currently, the only way to definitively test for CTE by way of postmortem analysis of brain tissue is to search for an abnormal build up of a protein called tau. CTE is associated with erratic behavior, memory loss, aggression, paranoia, and in extreme instances, full-blown dementia.
This season, 18 baseball players were placed on the disabled list after concussions. 10 of them were catchers. In 2012, 13 players were placed on the DL after a concussion, and in 2011, the number was 11, according to MLB data.