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December 3rd, 2012
09:35 PM ET

Joe Namath on NFL injury risk: "The brain is not designed to take the kind of trauma that football players suffer"

With the National Football League still reeling from the shocking murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chief's linebacker Jovan Belcher, this evening "Piers Morgan Tonight" invited Hall of Famer Joe Namath to share his insight on the violent and dangerous nature of America's most popular sport:

"Trauma to the head does cause some problems, the proteins that get active to kill the brain cells," he told Piers Morgan in an exclusive interview. "The more they advance, obviously, the depression sets in, the dementia sets in, various heinous diseases from the brain."

The latest in a list of recent NFL suicides, it's not yet clear as to whether or not Belcher's decision to take his own life can be linked to mental illness stemming from collisions on the field. But according to Namath, each and every time players strap on the equipment, and take their place between the white lines, their health and their lives are at risk:

"The body's not designed to play football. The brain is not designed to take the kind of trauma that football players suffer, that boxers go through, and you pay a price for it," said the 69-year-old former Jets great. "I think today we're further advanced than we have been certainly and so we should be able to monitor these injuries more closely and again, injuries that happen to children falling off of bicycles, little league baseball, we ought to be able to handle this and deal with it more properly down the road than it has been handled."

Belcher's suicide follows those of former football players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, each of whom killed themselves with a self-inflicted gunshot wound during the last two years.

Watch the clip, and listen to the interview, as Namath offers further perspective on the physical dangers, and long-term impact, associated with contact sports and head injuries.
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Filed under: The Big Story
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Piers Douchbag

    Zzzz

    December 3, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Colleen Meegan RN MSEd MSN

      To Piers "Douch" Bag: What exactly is a douch? And why are you reading this if you are so tired? Hmmm....? Go to bed now, sweetie, and maybe when you read this in the morning, it will make perfect sense to you. Take care now, OK? Nightie-night!

      December 5, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Larry

    How absurd. If that player would have hung his ex and then hung himself we wouldn't be trying to control the sail of rope. By the way look at the stats, 3 times as many people die in america from alcohol related issues. Where is the outcry for banning the sale of alcohol. The whole issue is not "GUN CONTROL" its "PEOPLE CONTROL". You can only take control of the American people if you take there guns. GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 4, 2012 at 12:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Gregg

    The issue here isnt gun control Larry, its about brain damage....did you get hit in the head recently?

    December 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Colleen Meegan RN MAEd MSN

    Joe, my hero! I watched you in my dorm in 1969 getting the hell knocked out of you and loved you for it! Now having recently done my doctoral research on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), I applaud you once again for a different reason: you are now a champion for athletes with TBI, an underserved population. Gosh, with your fame and my science background we could start a campaign no one could stop! Anyway, kudos to you and those who fight alongside you! And to those who responded with an unkind word and still live under a rock: please stay where you belong.

    What can we do on the field? Better helmets? Better spinal cord protection? How can we protect both our adult athletes and our child athletes? Seriously, mild TBI seems to be more serious in the long run (hence, murder / suicide) than severe TBI: you die, you live with really severe consequences, or you come out with few or no deficits. Conundrum. (PS–those proteins are caspase & calpain, among others.) We have a lot of work to do in the field...lots of research as to what works and what is simple conjecture. Regardless, thanks for the wonderful work with TBI and opening up the minds of all of us who are sports fans!

    December 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Colleen Meegan RN MSEd MSN

      EDIT: that's MSEd

      December 5, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. jonathanfermo

    Reblogged this on jonathan fermo and commented:
    jonathan fermo

    February 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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