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CTE at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

The annual Pro Football Hall of Fame convened on August 8th to honor the inductees:

Ron Wolf, former Green Bay Packers general manager
Charles Haley, former defensive end with the 49ers and Cowboys
Mick Tingelhoff, former center with the Vikings
Will Shields, former offensive guard with the Chiefs
Bill Polian, former general manager for the Bills, Panther and Colts
Tim Brown, former receiver with the Raiders
Junior Seau, former linebacker with the Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots
Jerome Bettis, former running back with the Steelers and Rams

While most of the inductees were able to receive their awards and deliver their thank-you speeches, Junior Seau was the only one among the group to be honored posthumously.

A controversy sparked when his daughter, wishing to give a loving speech about her father’s athleticism and personal values, was banned from speaking at the ceremony.  Seau’s early death at 45 and his struggle with neuropsychological issues relating to CTE caused trauma among his loyal fans and family.  Deciding to opt out of the NFL concussion lawsuit, the Seau estate is in the middle of a wrongful-death lawsuit against the NFL independently.

With the NFL as the main financial backer of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the media speculated it was a convenient way to prevent the Seau family from potentially discussing the long-term neurodegenerative effects football has on players. The Pro Football Hall of Fame cited a policy enacted in 2010 that denied families of deceased honorees from speaking.

In the end, the Pro Football Hall of Fame decided to let Sydney Seau give a short interview about her father. She did not mention brain injury either on stage, or during a recording of her full speech by the New York Times. (Watch the full NYT video here.)

Between 2007 and 2015, Vice journalist Patrick Hruby points out, 31 members of the Hall of Fame died. Six of them were diagnosed with CTE, according to reports from the Sports Legacy Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit that studies sports-related concussions and brain trauma. Another 9 were diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, according to the obituaries.

Hruby ran the math, and made a shocking discovery. For every five Hall of Fame players to sit down at the same banquet table this weekend, one of them is likely to end up with CTE. (Read Hruby’s Vice article here.)