Their instincts are to chase, to disrupt, to defend. They are typically quicker than the receivers, but can’t catch a cold. Why is that?
It’s because of their mindset. They are in fight-or-flight mode. And the catch is a delicate maneuver.
Receivers have a set path, and a plan of attack. The defensive strategy is entirely reactive, based on what they see from the offense. So thinking quickly is part of their programming. The problem is that thinking quickly does not help you catch a football.
Think about it…receivers catch more passes when they are hit in stride, and don’t have to react or adjust to a bad throw. It’s because the act of changing the path and reacting to an off-target throw takes more energy, and the time is the same.
Look at the catch rate of these receivers. Does it remind you of the free throw percentages in the NBA? It should. Receiving stats look just like free throw stats. The best catchers hover near 90%, and the worst are around 50%, some even dip below 40%. And you know what they call receivers that catch less than 50% of their passes: defensive backs.
So how in the world are we going to try to relate these two events? It’s simple, if you accept some of my other proofs. But if you don’t, I would just stop reading right here. Here are the prerequisites to understanding this correlation:
Weakness or numbness in your arms and/or legs, usually on one side of the body
Dysphasia (difficulty speaking)
Abnormal taste and/or smells
Loss of balance
Altered consciousness and/or passing out
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
Temporary loss of consciousness
Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
Dizziness or “seeing stars”
Ringing in the ears
Delayed response to questions
What are the causes of a mini-stroke?
Blood pressure readings higher than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)
Cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
Obstructive sleep apnea
Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm
Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack.
Other factors associated with a higher risk of stroke include:
Age —People age 55 or older have a higher risk of stroke than do younger people.
Race — African-Americans have a higher risk of stroke than do people of other races.
Sex — Men have a higher risk of stroke than women. Women are usually older when they have strokes, and they’re more likely to die of strokes than are men.
Hormones — use of birth control pills or hormone therapies that include estrogen, as well as increased estrogen levels from pregnancy and childbirth.
We’ve studied almost all of these different causes and can tie them all back to the brain. [The hormones and sleep apnea posts are coming soon.]
Concussion Causes: Impacts to the head
The only symptom that really needs explanation is nausea, and that is a factor of strokes that just seems to not be included in most lists. But then I found this:
A stroke that takes place in the cerebellum can cause coordination and balance problems, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
So if you can wrap your head around the prerequisites, I can neatly tie these together. A stroke literally happens when the pressure of your brain gets too high. What happens to the pressure inside a closed sphere if you impact it with something at high speed? Pressure goes up dramatically. The greater the force of the impact, the higher the pressure gets.
So what’s the major take away here? Mini-strokes resolve themselves and do not require any further medical attention. They do not cause any long-term damage. Meaning that concussive blows should resolve themselves within twenty-four hours, and if there are no symptoms, the brain is fine.
What else do we know about people in the NFL? They are massive, and bigger than ever. Here’s some size information. What does every player do when they get out of the league? They start looking at life in a new way and decide that they need to get healthier so they can live longer. Here are fifteen examples. So if we can correlate exiting the NFL to massive weight loss, can they prove that the new symptoms in the former players is because of their head trauma and not because of their massive weight loss.
Because I can tell you from experience that massive weight loss can lead to depression. And assuming that the majority of these players were happy whenever they entered the league, and while they were playing, how can we attribute their sudden change to their concussive blows?
I had to do some research on CTE, and there were some pretty interesting findings. Worth noting: Previously, CTE had been associated with boxing and was called dementia pugilistica or “punch-drunk syndrome”. The risk of CTE in boxers seems most closely tied to the number of rounds boxed, not to the number of times a boxer was knocked out, suggesting that even repeated blows to the head that don’t cause unconsciousness may increase CTE risk. [Source: alz.org]
In general, there is no treatment, and no cure. And we really don’t know all that much about it. But we seem to think that it’s somehow tied to blows to the head. Here’s a great read about the NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster and how he changed we look at concussions and injury protocol in the NFL and other contact sports.
I can’t find his exact weight, but “Iron Mike” was 255 pounds when he played and a shell of that in the years following. I want to be very clear here: I am not saying that repeating head injury does not cause trauma, but I do not think it’s the whole story. One of the most relatable portions of his story was his drive. The guy would not stop. He was training on vacation. He was the first to practice and the last to leave. Everyone was impressed with his will and his drive. I can relate to that. I played tennis around the clock for the past two or three years. I know what the fire is like to be a man on a mission. What if that is one of the qualities that breaks us? When you remove all of what we know? What do we become?
Here are the people that get CTE:
Source of head impacts
Punches to the head
Tackle football players
Hits to the helmet
Headers and collisions
Ice hockey players
Blast injuries, combat
Victims of domestic abuse
I think of the brain as a very resilient machine, and I have a hard time believing that these disorders would remain dormant for so long. These football players sometimes played 20 years [if you count high school and college] before retiring. And they just seem to show symptoms later in life.
So if we are completely missing the point and the new helmets and protocols don’t work? At some point, we’ll realize that the problem is not with the hits. The problem is the lifestyle, body, and mind transformation that the players go through after they exit the league.
In this NY Times article, they analyzed over 200 former NFL players, and 111 had CTE. Most noteworthy was that 44 were linemen. The number is twice as much as the other positions. And you think about it, lineman really don’t get hit in the head more often, do they? If CTE was impact related, wouldn’t the running backs or linebackers have a higher percentage?
If you’re still reading, here’s your conclusion. We’re missing the point. The brain is a resilient machine. It’s when you try to reprogram it that things start to go haywire. Concussive blows are not the only variable at play here. New helmets will not eliminate CTE, because concussive blows are not the underlying cause.
Edit: I watched the movie. It’s definitely worth a watch. Also, I came across Ryan Freel, the first Major League Baseball player diagnosed with CTE. He committed suicide on December 22nd, 2012. Read the article, and make your own judgments. They tallied up his concussions after his death: 10. What they don’t emphasize is that he was ADHD, bipolar, depressed, and on a host of brain altering drugs.