June 29, 2010 (Parkville, MD) – Bruce Laird, president of Fourth & Goal and a former defensive back with the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers, today issued the following statement regarding the announcement by the Brain Injury Research Institute at West Virginia University that the Cincinnati Bengals' Chris Henry suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
"The news that Chris Henry was afflicted with CTE is devastating. That someone so young, whose NFL career lasted only five years and who had no history of concussions could suffer such brain trauma challenges everything we've believed about CTE, the effects of repeated blows to the head, and the link to depression, substance abuse and dementia, Alzheimer's and similar diseases. "
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has taken significant steps to address retired players' issues and concerns, including instituting more stringent requirements regarding treatment of concussion. Still, the revelation that an active player exhibited signs of CTE at such a young age – coupled with recent discussions about extending the NFL's regular season to 18 games – demands that:
· Further study be undertaken to fully understand the short- and long-term effects of injury and wear-and-tear on players' bodies;
· Additional precautions be instituted to protect today's players from brain injuries; and
· Health care and disability benefits for retired players – particularly those who retired prior to 1993, when generous ancillary programs were provided to active players – be dramatically improved.
We stand ready to work with Commissioner Goodell to educate active players on the risks, to assist retired players who are already suffering the effects of brain trauma and other football injuries, to advise the league on necessary rule changes and precautions to prevent further CTE diagnoses, and to continue to advocate for much-needed improvements to the NFL’s disability program. Although the NFLPA and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith have remained silent in the wake of the news regarding Chris Henry and CTE, we hope the union will stand with Fourth & Goal in our efforts to protect players past, present and future.
About Fourth & Goal:
Founded by Baltimore Colts’ alumni, Fourth & Goal is a national 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving pension and disability benefits and gaining representation for retired players. For additional information, visit www.fourthandgoalunites.com. Follow Fourth & Goal on Twitter at @RetiredNFLers.