Researchers who analyzed samples of Chris Henry’s brain have released results indicating that the late WR had an undiagnosed condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
It is believed the condition is caused by multiple, repeated head trauma. Symptoms include problems with impulse control, failed business and personal relationships, memory loss, depression, and eventually, dementia.
The research was headed by Julian Bailes, Director of the West Virginia University’s Brain Injury Research Institute. Bailes received authorization from Henry’s mother to perform the analysis.
CTE causes a build up of harmful proteins in the brain which affects the proper function of neural fibres. The report estimates at least 50 professional athletes have been diagnosed with the condition, including former Steeler Justin Strzelcyzk and wrestler Chris Benoit, both of whom met untimely and tragic ends resulting from mental instability. Mike Webster, the former longtime Steelers Center who suffered from serious depression, has also been considered a candidate for CTE.
It seems that the infirmaty, if validated, could cause the NFL to have to seriously re-think its stance on head injuries and protective equipment. The symptoms certainly seem to align themselves with Henry’s erratic behavior during his short life and career.
The NFL should take this issue seriously, as should the NCAA and local youth football programs. Protecting players should be the primary focus of any sport, and the league would be wise to address it proactively rather than wait for the lawsuits to start rolling in.