Former Dallas Cowboys runningback Tony Dorsett told ESPN’s Dan Le Batard that doctors at UCLA Medical confirmed that he has CTE. Tony Dorsett went into more detail as he taped a segment on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines,” adding that his memory is basically declining everyday while his temperament has also changed. “It’s painful man, for my daughters to say they’re scared of me,” Dorsett says, adding that the condition has “been awful.” The diagnosis and revelation echoes what we saw with Junior Seau, who tragically ended his life after being diagnosed with the brain disorder. But is the NFL really to blame? That’s where things get murky.
CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is a degenerative brain disorder anyone can get, but is most often seen in athletes; that’s because the repeated strikes to the head and concussions that dominate the league puts players in the NFL at a higher risk. That risk is exactly why Dorsett has called for the NFL to foot the bill. He joins former players like Joe DeLamielleure and All-Pro Leonard Marshall with around 4,500 others that sued the league over what they say is a case of medical negligence, and the claim the league knew about the brain disorder and hid it. That case is currently being settled for $765 million.
And there may be more. Even though much about the condition is still unknown, the NFL is doing itself no favors by not leading the charge on any breakthroughs or testing. In fact, they have no comment on this latest claim and as part of their August settlement, they still admit no wrongdoing. For years, Roger Goodell and the NFL insisted there was no direct link between CTE and repeated hits to the head. But they reversed course in 2009, admitting there was a link — albeit small — between CTE and the repeated hits. The research will continue to show that the NFL is putting players at risk, while retired players will continue to lead the charge for some sort of reform. “When I sit still for any length of time, I get depressed for no reason,” DeLamielleure said. “I have CTE. Let’s see what the heck we can do about it.”
What can the NFL do? Well, for one, they can scrap this idea of more regular and preseason games. And secondly, how about admitting what the research already proves? Which is that these players have a serious medical conditions clearly linked to the sport they once loved. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, and until the league folds and gives in to enhanced player safety, there will be more Hall of Famers, more Dorsett’s and more Seau’s that are lost. Player safety? Prove it.