Pop singer Justin Timberlake, during an NFL news conference meant to promote his upcoming halftime appearance in the Super Bowl LII, made a vow both striking and controversial: His son Silas would never play football.
Sparking debate ahead of Sunday’s game, Timberlake has found an ally in Super Bowl legend and former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who became a national sports icon when he boldly, and correctly, guaranteed a Jets’ victory (the team’s first and only) over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
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“I have to agree with Justin here,” the 74-year-old said during an interview with FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto. “We’ve learned so much about brain trauma through the years. It’s not just football, it’s in everyday life. We need to find a way to help [those who suffer].”
Football has long been associated with the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, better known as CTE, which is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. Symptoms can include memory loss, confusion, depression, and dementia; problems can start years after the hits to the head occurred.
According to a study published in July by The Journal of the American Medical Association, a neuropathologist who examined the brains of 202 deceased football players, aged 23 to 89, from every position on the field, found that 177 of the players, or 87%, suffered from CTE. Of the players with severe CTE, 85% showed signs of dementia.
Until recently, the NFL denied any correlation between the disease and the sport. It wasn’t until March 2016 when the NFL’s top health and safety officer acknowledged a link between football-related head trauma and CTE.
Namath, however, isn’t worried about the future of football. He doesn’t expect the NFL’s concession – or growing public concern – to ultimately change anything.
“We love watching that mix of violence and the guys in the uniforms. It’s a sexy violent, sport,” he said. “It’s not going to go away. There’s always going to be guys looking to take the risk for the remuneration.”