Domestic violence is a hot-button topic right now, especially in the world of professional sports. But John Gever, the managing editor of MedPage Today, thinks that violent outbursts off the field, as seen in the cases of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, may be the result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a pathology that includes brain lesions and cognitive impairment especially seen in professional athletes.
Besides the lesions and impairments, CTE can cause abnormalities in mood and behavior, including violent aggression. With one-third of professional football players expected to develop neurological problems, Gever muses as to whether Rice, Peterson and others actually have a brain disease.
A 2013 study out of Boston University showed that symptoms of CTE could be present in subjects much younger than previously thought, with the mean age of those studied at 34.5, and with a participant as young as 19 years old showing symptoms.
Still, Gever clarified, football is a violent sport that attracts aggressive individuals, and there is currently no way to detect CTE outside of autopsy.
If CTE is at the root of these violent and sometimes deadly outbursts, are the NFL and other organizations doing the right thing by using punishment as a deterrent?
When video emerged last month showing NFL star running back Ray Rice smashing his then-fiancee’s head into an elevator rail, knocking her unconscious, he was fired from his multimillion-dollar job. And when, shortly afterward, another NFL star, Adrian Peterson, was indicted for allegedly beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, he was suspended indefinitely and, of course, faces a possible criminal conviction.