This past weekend was Grey Cup weekend in Canada. The Toronto Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders met at TD Place Stadium in the Nation’s Capital. The Argos won 27-24 in another classic. In the lead up to the game, Canadian Football League Commissioner Randy Ambrosie declared that ‘we don’t know‘ if there is a connection between CTE and football. Around this time last year, the former CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said the same thing and was roundly criticized. Ambrosie is being suitably raked over the coals.
But here’s the thing, Ambrosie should know better. He is a former CFL player himself, he was a lineman for the Stampeders, Argonauts, and Edmonton Eskimos (why no one protests this name is beyond me). Ironically, he retired due to injuries. And he should know about the damage done to his own body by the game. I am certainly aware of what football did to my body, between the cranky knees, shoulders, and, of course, the concussions (added to, of course, by hockey, where I played goalie).
More to the point, it looks pretty damn likely that there is a connection between football and CTE. This is just media one story from this past summer (out of many) that reports on a study that found that 88% of brains donated by now-deceased former football players had some form of CTE. CTE was also more prevalent in former professional players, as compared, to, say, high school players.
This is not complete proof positive of the link between football and CTE because CTE can only be diagnosed after death, and so far, studies have concluded nothing more than the commonality of the disease being present in the brains of former football players, as opposed to those who did not play. But this isn’t a direct proof. But, recent research has found that it may be possible to determine the presence of CTE in the brains of the living. This may allow researchers to positively correlate football and CTE.
But, we are not there yet. Nonetheless, Ambrosie’s comments are asinine at best, recklessly dangerous at worst. And, either way, profoundly stupid.
The CFL has done a lot of good to reduce the stress on players’ bodies, from adding a 3rd bye-week during the season to banning full-contact practices. But, it is still the subject of a class-action lawsuit focusing on brain damage (in this light, Ambrosie’s comments make some sense, but the better thing to have done would’ve been to deflect the question).
But Ambrosie’s statements last week threaten to undo that. We should all expect better from the Canadian Football League.