Kenny Stabler is a name that all football fans and especially in Alabama recognize. But today the name of the former National Football League quarterback, who played at the University of Alabama under Coach Paul Bryant, is in the news for another reason. He had a severe degenerative brain disease linked to repeated concussions. Kenny died from colon cancer in July at age 69. He had volunteered to have his brain donated to researchers at Boston University after his death to find out if his confusion and headaches were caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The condition can only be diagnosed posthumously.
Researchers said the former Raiders quarterback had high Stage 3 CTE. The severity of the brain disease is rated on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being the most severe. Kenny is one of dozens of former football players who have been diagnosed with CTE. Those afflicted with the condition generally display symptoms of dementia including memory loss and confusion. But they can also show signs of aggression and have in some cases become homicidal and/or suicidal.
In recent years, researchers have begun to connect the dots between repeated head blows and the build-up of abnormal tau proteins in the brain, leading to the degenerative brain disease. In a previous study of 94 former NFL players, CTE was found in 90 of them.
The NFL has been unwilling to take responsibility for not better protecting players from head injuries over the years, but last spring agreed to set aside $1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit against former players to address concussion-related injuries. Kenny’s family, however, will not receive compensation under the terms of the settlement since his CTE was not diagnosed until after the April 2015 cutoff. That is heartbreaking for the family. Kenny’s daughter, Alexa Stabler, told the New York Times:
He played 15 seasons in the NFL, gave up his body and, apparently, now his mind. And to see the state that he was in physically and mentally when he died, and to learn that despite all the energy and time and resources he gave to football – and not that he played the game for free, he made money, too – without the knowledge that this is where he would end up, physically and cognitively, and for the settlement to say you get nothing? It’s hard not to be angry.
This is a sad story – one of many – that should cause those in charge at the NFL to feel badly and elect to do the right thing. In fact, the NFL has an obligation from a moral perspective – regardless of the settlement – to compensate families like the Stabler family. Will the NFL do the right thing? Time will tell!
Source: New York Times
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