There’s no way to sugar coat this. Pittsburgh Steelers Dr. Joseph Maroon should be ashamed of himself.
IN the wake of Chris Borland’s sudden retirement Dr. Maroon was on ESPN recently discussing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) the mental degenerative condition that has left dozens (if not scores or hundreds) of former football players suffering from Alzheimer’s like symptoms in their 50’s or even in their 40’s.
Make no mistake about it: CTE is a disease which could spell the demise of the NFL – and football itself in less than a generation. When asked about CTE this is what Dr. Maroon had to say:
It’s a rare phenomena. We have no idea the incidence. There are … more injuries to kids falling off bikes, scooters, falling in playgrounds than there are in youth football.
Really? As MMQB’s Greg Bedard pointed out, CTE was found in 76 out of 79 brains of former NFL players evaluated by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs brain bank. Of the 128 brains tested of people who’d played football at some level even high school, 101 tested positive for CTE.
If those hard statistics aren’t enough (to be honest, Maroon did cite his own quantitative research on concussions while on ESPN), then Maroon need only look to the cases of Terry Long, Mike Webster and Justin Strzelczyk.
In all fairness to Maroon, we don’t know how random the sample of brains was in the Department of Veterans Affairs study. Studying the brain of a diseased person requires the consent of their family and, one would figure that families who had someone suffer from dementia like symptoms would be more inclined to donate a brain.
And Marron is right when he says there are only a few hundred cases of CTE vs. 30 or 40 millions of kids who play football.
- But Maroon is being disingenuous in attempting to write off CTE as a “rare phenomena.”
Dr. Maroon is a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh and has been a member of the Steelers medical staff dating back to at least the 1980’s. He’s a well-respected practicing physician.
In fact, in 1990 or 1991 Dr. Maroon refused to clear Bubby Brister to play after Brister had suffered a concussion. Chuck Noll balked and challenged Dr. Maroon to provide quantifiable proof to back his diagnosis. Noll’s challenge prompted Dr. Maroon to develop the NFL’s cognitive tests to measure and document the impact of concussions.
- Dr. Maroon is a legitimate pioneer in the field of concussion research as it relates to football.
But those credentials don’t somehow buy him a “Get Out of Jail” free card when it comes to commentary on CTE
If the NFL and the sport of football are going to survive the treat posed to it by CTE and head trauma, they’re not going to do it by making a tobacco-company like attempting to pretend the problem does not exist.
In a word, Dr. Maroon should know better.