Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

Are Football and Hockey More Dangerous than Drugs?

More professional athletes' deaths are due to sports than drugs; now what?

Headline: "Hall of Fame NFL player Tony Dorsett diagnosed with brain disease with concussion link, report says."

News item: Several ex-N.F.L. players who have committed suicide, most notably Junior Seau, a former San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots star, have been found posthumously to have had a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma.

News item: Derek Boogaard, a professional hockey "enforcer" who fought constantly, died at age 28 from a drug and alcohol overdose while recovering from a brain concussion. "Boogaard had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as C.T.E., a close relative of Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. More than 20 dead former N.F.L. players and many boxers have had C.T.E. diagnosed. It generally hollowed out the final years of their lives into something unrecognizable to loved ones."

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Factoid: "It (C.T.E.) can be diagnosed only posthumously, but scientists say it shows itself in symptoms like memory loss, impulsiveness, mood swings, even addiction."

Personal disclosure: My mother, Sara, wouldn't let me play high school football.

Factoid:  By the time a player enters the NFL or NHL, he has already had ten years of hard contact, and most likely numerous concussions.  Concussion clinics are now opening to address widespread concerns about brain injuries to young athletes.

Factoid: "There is still no agreed-upon, established formula for treating the injuries."

Realization: By this point, football players should be aware of the dangers of C.T.E. Will many or most quit? Will any quit? I am aware of no major college or professional football or hockey player who has quit as a result of the information above.

Factoid: According to Columbia drug researcher Carl Hart, “Eighty to 90 percent of people who use crack and methamphetamine don’t get addicted. And the small number who do become addicted are nothing like the popular caricatures.”

Possibility: Are hockey and football greater dangers than drugs?

Stanton's newest book with Ilse Thompson—Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program—will appear in February, and can be pre-ordered here.

Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! and developer of the online Life Process Program. He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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