Shelby: After eight years in the NFL, Jacob Bell is walking away from the fame and fortune.
Jacob Bell: We’re like modern day gladiators. We sell our soul to a game for money, for fame, for glory. And at some point, you’ve got to sit there and say, ‘is this still worth what I’m doing?’
Shelby: Bell was making millions playing the game he loved. Then, like the rest of the NFL, he was shocked by the suicide of former linebacker Junior Seau a few weeks ago.
Bell: It’s kind of like an eye opener. We realized, you know, the game has an effect on you.
Shelby: Bell is now the first NFL player since Seau’s death to retire because of fears that football may lead to long term brain damage.
Bell: We’re now seeing that there is a clear cut proof that the trauma incurred during football leads to problems later in life.
Shelby: Scientists now link repeated head injuries to a disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. It causes depression, loss of memory and brain functions, and early onset dementia.
CTE was discovered in the brain of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson after, like Seau, he killed himself with a gunshot to his chest. Duerson left a note asking scientists to study his brain to find out whether football injuries were responsible for his mental problems.
But pro athletes aren’t the only ones facing big risks. According to a new study of college athletes, hits to the head during contact sports may hurt a player’s ability to acquire new information. Concussions are also one of the most common injuries for high school athletes. That is why Congress is considering a new law that requires school boards to create guidelines for dealing with concussions. And some companies are making new helmets that can alert coaches when there is a high-impact collision.
The NFL is changing its rules to cut down on helmet-to-helmet hits. And back in 2010, the league donated $1 million for research on CTE.
Bell hopes the league will do more.
Bell: We may not be able to change the way the game is played, may not be able to change football. What we could do is raise awareness and do research to maybe find a cure for this disease that’s causing these problems.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.