The National Football League can no longer pretend it doesn't know that football causes significant brain damage to players. The growing body of evidence was conclusive even before the tragic suicide of former NFL star Dave Duerson in February. Duerson, an all-American at Notre Dame and a two-time Super Bowl champion, had suffered from depression and was having trouble putting words together.
At age 50, he shot himself in the chest, leaving his wife a simple, 12-word note: "Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL's brain bank."
Boston University researchers reported Monday that Duerson had a degenerative brain disease found posthumously in 14 of the 15 former NFL players studied by the university. The disease affects judgment, memory, mood and impulse control. Researchers say evidence links it to the cumulative effects of hundreds of blows to the heads of players, many of whom started playing football in middle school or earlier.
The owners have locked out players this spring in a nasty contract dispute that includes a push to add two games to the current 16-game regular season — compounding the problem, as players take more hits each year and have less down time to recover.
Apparently, the NFL weighed player safety vs. higher profits and decided the $7.8 billion in revenue it took in last year wasn't enough. The owners should immediately abandon this demand.
And if they can't find ways to make the game significantly safer, lawmakers need to step in and do it for them — if not for the sake of NFL players, then for the kids who today are starting out on what could be a path to Duerson's tragic end.