This is the type of research college football should be supporting with its windfall playoff revenues.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- This week's revelation that researchers found football-related brain damage in five living ex-NFL players demonstrates why college football must spend money on research, a leading player advocate said today.
ESPN.com reported this week that for the first time researchers identified signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in living patients. A UCLA researcher said that although the findings are preliminary given the small sample size, identifying CTE in a living person represents "the holy grail" to make advancements in treating the disease.
"This is the type of research college football should be supporting with dollars," said Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association. "These people need to be supported to experiment with research and get more former players tested. Once you find these players with CTE markers, you have the opportunity to provide some actual resources to help, such as anti-depression medicine."
Huma said players on his weekly NCPA council call were "uneasy" when they learned that former NFL star Junior Seau suffered from CTE. Seau committed suicide last year.
National College Players Association President Ramogi Huma said the BCS prevented him from holding a news conference about head injuries in Miami prior to the BCS Championship Game.
"As young as these (college) players are, they all know who Junior Seau is," Huma said. "Look at the attention the NFL has gotten on this subject, and it's a fraction of the number of players who play college football. How is college football going to invest in its players? Not just lip service, but actual dollars. We need the research. We need the treatment."
The UCLA study was funded by a $100,000 grant from the Brain Injury Research Institute; Dr. Bennett Omalu, a pathologist who in 2005 identified the first case of CTE in a former NFL player; and Bob Fitzsimmons, the attorney of deceased Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, the first NFL player diagnosed with CTE.
The Big Ten and the Ivy League have a joint collaboration to study the effects of head injuries on college athletes in their conferences. The NCAA is providing a $400,000 grant to the National Sport Concussion Outcomes Study Consortium.
Huma said he tried to hold a news conference in Miami to discuss head injuries prior to the BCS Championship Game, but a Marriott hotel caved to pressure from the BCS.
"The contracts were all ready to have a room, but before they executed the contract, they checked with the BCS and Marriott pulled the plug," Huma said. "We needed to inject the conversation of the health of these football players. The BCS has tried to actively silence us on this. That was pretty disturbing."