A report released Tuesday detailed neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee’s decisive findings regarding the ongoing medical inquiry into the link between Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.) and football. Dr. McKee’s report revealed that 99% of brains examined in the study previously belonging to NFL players showed signs of C.T.E. In addition, 87% of high school, college, semi-professional and CFL brains who never made it to the NFL also were affected to varying degrees.
Until now, C.T.E.’s most notable moment came during the 2015 release of the film Concussion, which told the story of Nigerian doctor Bennet Omalu’s shocking discovery of the disease. Though the film sparked both widespread outrage over the health risks that the NFL had previously denied and major questions the future of the NFL, the subject has been absent from the news in the last six months. But Tuesday’s study, though shocking to almost no one, has reopened the C.T.E. conversation.
The C.T.E. findings in this report could impact not only the NFL, but also every major American sport. Here is how other professional American leagues could change as a result of the NFL’s link to C.T.E.
Last September, I wrote a column explaining how the discovery of C.T.E. could impact Major League Baseball. In essence, hesitation to play football could drive many athletes who would previously pursue the NFL to choose other sports that seem safer; therefore, more extremely large, strong athletes such as Aaron Judge–who could have easily pursued a career as a receiver in the NFL–could opt for baseball. This would notably increase the overall strength and athleticism of the game in all aspects. Average pitching speeds could increase ,as well as a variety of hitting statistics such the number of home runs and the length and exit velocity of these home runs. Players would also make more extremely athletic plays in the field. Overall, the NFL’s C.T.E. scandal would make Major League Baseball a faster and more athletic game.
Cue the NFL banning Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham’s signature touchdown celebration, the goal post “dunk.” Graham was a seasoned forward who played four years of college basketball, but made the switch to football after encouragement by famed quarterback Bernie Kosar. The Jimmy Grahams of the future might just stick to a sport where dunking is not only legal, but also encouraged.Many statistics, including a 2016 Business Insider report, placed the NBA behind both the NFL and MLB in American popularity. The demise of the NFL, however, could boost the NBA’s contention as the most popular American sport. It is difficult to say how the game itself would change if a flux of football players chose to pursue the NBA, as both sports require extreme stamina and expert footwork. Most likely, overall statistics would rise as a larger, more competitive athlete pool entered the running for the NBA.
Though historically considered one of the least popular American sports, soccer–and the MLS specifically–would make major gains if C.T.E. studies are startling enough to steer players and their families away from football. Soccer is already an extremely popular sport for American youth–and if more of kids stick with soccer instead of going off to play football in high school (or even earlier, in Pop Warner), American soccer could become not only more popular but also perhaps more competitive on the world stage. Yesterday, the U.S. Men’s national team–which, this year, fielded a B-list roster–bested Jamaica to take home the CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship title. The USA’s competitiveness on both the domestic and world stage is constant rising; The NFL’s popularity loss would only boost that rise.
Ironically enough, institutions such as Boston University have recently conducted studies illustrating a potential link between C.T.E. and hockey; therefore, the impact of C.T.E. on hockey still remains to be foreseen…