Football Helmets Under Scrutiny After Athlete’s Suicide
In April, Penn State football player, 21-year-old Owen Thomas was found dead in his off-campus apartment. He had apparently hanged himself. The captain’s death was a shock to everyone including doctors who had observed his brain after his death. Doctors found that Owen Thomas was in the early stages of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a disease that has been linked to depression and impulse control, primarily among NFL players. CTE has been found in 21 NFL players, including Andre Waters, who also committed suicide. Owen Thomas was the first college player to have been diagnosed with the disease. He was never diagnosed with a concussion.
CTE is caused by repeated concussions or blows to the head with incredible force. Brain damage that causes CTE occurs when an object strikes the head with violent force, but does not break the skull. Although the object does not break the bone, the brain ricochets into the side of the skull. This causes different parts of the brain to deteriorate.
Immediately after the suicide, new standards for football helmet have been implemented for high school teams in California. New research has shown that even a minor hit to the head can have a long-term health impact. Football helmets have come under fire for being the cause of increasingly serious head injuries endured by football players. Some say the new high-tech football helmets lead players to take more risks, because they have a false sense of security. In fact, one football analyst believes players would be better off using old fashioned leather helmets, because players would be more cautious of head injuries.