Concussion Crisis: Head Trauma in American Football

Connor Murray '16

The project: Using examples drawn from today’s headlines, Mr. Murray explores the connection between the repeated head trauma of football and the debilitating brain condition Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). In assessing the response of the National Football League and coaches elsewhere, he asks the question, Is it possible to save the game by making it safer for the players while keeping its appeal to the fans?

Notable quote: “It is clear that in order for football to be maintained, it must evolve. The players, the fans, the families, and the United States will not tolerate the injustices these players are facing forever. But how can we tackle such a catastrophic issue gracefully enough so as not to compromise the spirit and identity of a game designed to please those who favor violence? The answer to this question can be seen in practices all around the United States, when coaches and players do their part to reteach the game.”

Biggest challenge as a scholar: “Trying to focus my ideas for my paper and my presentation. One of the things that is nice but also challenging about my topic is that it is really current, so there’s so much information out right now. As I was writing my paper, someone actually died who showed in their autopsy that they were a victim of what I was studying, and I was like, How do I now try and work that in? That was helpful, but it was also distracting.”

Surprising discovery: “My biggest surprise was how, after I was done with my research, I knew so much about it that I could write more than I thought I could. I knew so much more about my topic, because I had spent so much time reading and so much time studying. I became an expert more quickly and thoroughly than I thought I would.”

Tip for future scholars: “Start writing earlier. We did research for a long time. Writing during the research process would probably be helpful. The writing seemed a little rushed but Ms. Klumpp was really good about helping us along the way with that process and keeping us assured that we were going to be able to get it done. She was always there if I had questions about content or format.”

From his presentation: Close to 100 former NFL players have been diagnosed posthumously with CTE. Autopsies of their brains reveal the presence of Tau, a protein brought on by head trauma.