The Times reports an ever better confirmed horror of our civilization:
A brain autopsy of a University of Pennsylvania football player who killed himself in April has revealed the same trauma-induced disease found in more than 20 deceased National Football League players, raising questions of how young football players may be at risk for the disease.
Owen Thomas hanged himself in his off-campus apartment after what friends and family have described as a sudden and uncharacteristic emotional collapse.
Owen Thomas, a popular 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior lineman for Penn with no previous history of depression, hanged himself in his off-campus apartment after what friends and family have described as a sudden and uncharacteristic emotional collapse. Doctors at Boston University subsequently received permission from the family to examine Thomas’s brain tissue and discovered early stages of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease linked to depression and impulse control primarily among N.F.L. players, two of whom also committed suicide in the last 10 years.
This wasn't a small, unskilled, vulnerable guy.
This is the tip of the iceberg. Football players are smarter, bigger, faster, stronger, ever more prone to injury, in a sport where winning is, famously, the only thing, the reigning values are paramilitary rather than what we're pleased to call sportsmanship. Stories like this one are now surfacing with regularity. And I don't think it's just denial that most fans don't give a shit. They watch football, in part, to see the tough hits, just as NASCAR fans wait eagerly for the spectacular crashes that are evidence for the passion of the sport. They despise athletes who don't play hurt.
If the NFL, and college, even high school teams, don't do something soon, it's only a matter of time before it occurs to somebody that they had knowledge of the risks, a duty to prevent them, a breach of that duty through negligence causing injury, economic loss, pain and suffering and loss of consortium, and that a suit in tort might succeed. The case will soon be better than it is in many suits for medical malpractice. And everyone will say that greedy lawyers are destroying the country. And the threat will, as has happened in the past, over and over again, produce change, desperately needed change, that wouldn't otherwise have happened.
Count on it.