Sunday, December 8, 2013

the last book I ever read (The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, excerpt seven)

from The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian:

After an initial conversation with Charlotte Bingham, Liggett called Guy Bailey. They both felt they could resolve the matter and agreed to meet the following day—Christmas Eve—at Bailey’s office. Bailey said he’d make sure Gerald Myers attended, and Liggett agreed to bring Leach.

But a blizzard hit Lubbock on December 24, pushing the meeting to the day after Christmas. The delay gave Bailey plenty of time to think through the situation. Bailey liked Leach a great deal and admired the excitement his coaching style had brought to Lubbock. He and his wife, Jan, went to every home game. They had even gotten to know many of Leach’s players on a first-name basis. It was Bailey’s sense that Leach and his players had a strong bond and that the incident with Adam James was an isolated one, not a systemic problem.

Nonetheless, Bailey was uncomfortable with the way Adam James had been treated. After all, he had been diagnosed with a concussion. The dangers of concussions among pro football players were starting to attract national attention. That fall Congress had convened hearings on head injuries in the NFL. Public awareness around sports-related brain injuries were starting to pick up. Bailey felt it was only a matter of time before the NCAA faced similarly difficult questions about whether member institutions were adequately addressing the risks associated with concussions in football.

Less than two months before Adam James sustained a concussion, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine documented the first case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—better known as degenerative brain disease—in a college football player who did not play professionally. Mike Borich, a wide receiver at Snow College and Western Illinois University in the 1980s, died from a drug overdose on February 9, 2009. He was forty-two. During his college football career Borich sustained at least ten concussions. After college he had no concussions or head injuries. Yet by his late thirties he displayed many of the symptoms found in NFL players diagnosed with degenerative brain disease caused by head injuries. So Borich’s father donated his son’s brain for research. After diagnosing Borich with CTE, a leading sports concussion expert said, “Brain trauma in sports is a public health problem, not just an NFL problem.”

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