Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and Collision Sports

A recent article on Yahoo Sports detailed findings from an autopsy on former NFL Linebacker Adrian Robinson. Robinson committed suicide in May of 2015 and his family allowed his brain to be evaluated at the Boston University Brain Bank. Robinson was found to have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) a degenerative condition of the brain that is now being associated with football and other collision sports.

Robinson was 25, not 85, and he had degenerative changes in his brain. I’m not sure how many seasons Robinson played in total but he played two years in the NFL and four years at Temple University. If you figure four years of high school (he played at harrisburg High School in PA) and some more time in rec leagues he maybe had a total time in the sport of maybe twelve years or so.

Twelve years out of 25 was enough to give Robinson degenerative changes to his brain that are not reversible. Twelve years is a very short time to have developed changes that may have lead to Robinson’s death. This is a very scary issue.

I have stood on sidelines as a physician for over 15 years and watched as a fan for many more and love the game. My love is now being tempered by the findings that are coming to light detailing the changes of CTE in both young and old. Case in point is Robinson as well as Owen Thomas, a Junior Lineman from the University of Pennsylvania, that was also found to have CTE after committing suicide in 2010. Three fewer years of college and professional play and he was already developing chronic degenerative changes.

As a physician I try and make sure that the kids that are playing are protected from repeated concussions as best I can

As a father I am torn. My son asked to play a couple of years ago. I deflected the interest at the time and he swims now. Yet I am sure the question will come up again. Either my older or younger son might ask to play. What do we do as parents? I know for me I will continue to try and move them into sports where the risk is hopefully less.

We will continue to learn more about concussions and CTE. Until we do I will continue to watch all the kids on the field and try and make sure we take care of them now and caution them on the risks.

For more information on concussions and CTE visit: