Newsflash: Football players sustain injuries. Really? This ‘revelation’ seems like common sense, except that people involved in the ‘ins and outs’ of football, from the Pros down to Little League, are starting to not just realize, but to admit that some injuries sustained by football players can do more damage than what has previously been believed or reported. Not only are football officials starting to recognize the damage some injuries can do to players, but they are finally admitting that the damage can spread to the families and loved ones of the injured football players.
On December 1, 2012, then Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at their home and then drove to the Chiefs’ practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium, and in front of two of his coaches, he turned his gun on himself (McCallister 1). The tragedy alarmed the entire Kansas City community and left many people asking, “WHY?”. Why would this successful young athlete take the life of his girlfriend, the mother of their child, and then take his own life in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot in front of two of his coaches who tried desperately to talk him out of his fatal decision?
Belcher’s family is now looking for answers. On Friday, December 13, the family chose to exhume his body in order for scientists to examine his brain. Specifically, doctors are looking for signs of the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (McCallister 1). “According to the Kansas City Star, CTE is a degenerative disease caused by repeated injuries. It has been linked to depression, dementia, confusion, memory loss, aggression and even suicide in many former NFL players” (McCallister 1).
KCTV5 was not able to reach the Belcher family; however, the inference seems clear. This family wants to know if any brain injury sustained by playing football could have been a cause or part of the cause for Javon Belcher’s behavior on December 1, 2012. The concept should make adults who are parents of teens or who work with teens think: When it comes to the sport of football, what are the standards and regulations regarding head injuries and possible concussions?
Obviously, any junior high or high school football coach should be looking out for the best interest of all of his players; however, when competition becomes high enough, where is a coach going to place his priorities? Secondly, when referring to junior high and high school football players getting injured, possibly with concussions or other traumatic brain injuries, we ALL have to remember that these teens’ brains are NOT even finished forming! A brain injury to them in their teen years can do much more damage to a professional NFL player whose brain has fully developed.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the coaches and officials to make sure that the safety of the players is paramount. Perhaps the investigation into Javon Belcher’s brain and health will help make sure that these long-term, devastating injuries do not affect any more families.
McCallister, Laura. “Former Chief Jovan Belcher's Body Exhumed; Brain to Be Examined.” www.KCTV5.com December 14, 2013.