Sanford Doctor Talks CTE, Future Of Football

Super Bowl 50 is nearly upon us, where we can expect to see big time players making and taking big hits. But it’s those hits that have gained world-wide attention after NFL players continue to be diagnosed with a brain disease thought to be caused by repeated hits to the head.

“A lot of fans do enjoy football because it is hard hitting and it’s very physical,” said Dr. Thayne Munce, who specializes in sports medicine at the Sanford Sports Science Institute in Sioux Falls.

Munce grew up playing football, but the sport he has grown to love is changing. While he believes the NFL is headed in the right direction when it comes to rule changes, he can see why the sport may someday lose it’s luster.

“If you take out that element of the sports it takes out some of that excitement that fans do enjoy so I think there is a risk that some will lose their excitement and enjoyment of the sport if you take out that physicality,” said Munce.

Along with concussions, a brain disease that causes a certain protein to build up, has caused controversy surrounding contact sports, specifically football. There’s no way to diagnose Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living people, but players with CTE previously had symptoms of depression, memory loss, and dementia. Among the most recent to be diagnosed: Former NFL Quarterback Ken Stabler.

“Most of the cases that have been reported have been in professional football players who have had years and years of exposure so we should be careful not generalizing these results to what would happen to a typical high school or youth football player who has had much less exposure over their career,” said Munce.

While Munce expects we will hear more about CTE moving forward, he hopes it doesn’t prevent parents from allowing children to benefit from playing sports.

Munce said, “It would really be unfortunate if people are choosing not to play sports over fear of diseases we have yet to determine fully what the cause and effect are.”

About a week ago, the NFL said that there were 271 concussions reported during the 2015 season, up from 206 a year ago. That’s an increase of 32 percent.