Melissa Harris-Perry | February 03, 2013
>>> good morning, i'm melissa harry perry . i have one question for you. are you ready for some football ? i know that i am. not that there's much of a choice in my home city of new orleans . there's no ignoring it. super bowl xlvii has come to town. the superdome is the place to be. the baltimore ravens are facing off against the san francisco 49ers . itis the best i can do if it's not the new orleans saints. they will be join d by the 110 million people watching on television. they are a captive side show for super bowl ads . they are costing $4 million for each 30 second spot. they will take it all in while consuming 1.2 billion chicken wings . 4 million pizzas and 50 million cases of beer. there's no denying our love affair with the game. alongside those numbers, this year's super bowl comes with another set of numbers that made that love much more complicated than ever. these new numbers could make cte as ewe nonmouse with football as nfl . it's chronic traumatic enreceive lolg, a brain disease caused by trauma to the head and the scientific evidence points to the connection between this long-term brain disease and the concussions and collisions that are part of our sport. last year, a boston university study that examines the brain tissue of deceased players found 50 confirmed cases of cte . of 34 players, 33 had the disease. last week, researchers announced there's a study that was the first of its kind to study living players. they found the protein that causes cte seen here in the brains on the right column in all five players studied. then there are the lives behind the science and the studies. that is what life looks like for players after the game ends and the symptoms of cte end. grown men suffering with headaches, dementia, paranoia, difficulties walking and talking and sometimes, worst of all, suicide. we all witness the most tragic of the diseases consequences last may when star linebacker junior seay took his life. in fact, he is one of sever players, including dave, shane and ray easterling who committed suicide and were later diagnosed with cte after their deaths. football is not the only sport associated with cte . as the most watched television programming and with more than $9 billion in revenue, football is the most profitable american sport . the ongoing research will uncover more and more football related cte . the love for the game and its potential dangers falls to all of us. all the fan who is consume and contribute to it to league the profit from the athletes who play in it. i'm not the only one talking about the relatively tiny sliver of the -- i'm not talking this tiny sliver of the population who are well paid. i'm talking the 3.5 million children under high school age who account for 70% of all football players in the country. youth tackle football players are exposed to head collisions like the pros but their still developing brains make them more susceptible to concussions. they may not understand the risks of playing the game and giving informed consent. it poses questions for parents. president obama felt the need to weigh in from a parent's perspective when he said quote, i'm a big football fan. if i had a son, i would have to think long and hard before i let him play football . for the parent who is do have to make that call, the decision may not be so cut and dry. they are weighing the risks of playing the game against the evidence of benefits. the lessons of team work and ta nasty, the team work and community. a supervised space for kids after school. the thing that makes them say hell yeah , we're ready for football . long and enduring love of the game. at the table, sportsed dor for the nation dave, former nfl player who won the super bowl with the tampa bay buccaneers , joy reid and dr. gary small and author of the alzheimers prevention program. it's nice to have you all here on super bowl sunday.
>> great to be here.
>> i know. all that. i want to start with you, doctor. i want to think a little bit about if we can now diagnose cte in the brains of living individuals, does that create an imperative for the nfl to test players for signs?
>> we don't know how much this new test is going to apply to the nfl players until we look at it more. we have to follow people over time . this is a preliminary study. the results were so striking. we saw in the brains of these living players a pattern that was identical to what was seen at autopsy. what we are tagging are tal-proteins. the same as you see in alzheimers disease . itis not surprising that nfl players have a four times greater probability of dying with alzheimers than the general public .
>> you are saying it sounds like a blood test . the images i was looking at were fmris. what is allowing the diagnosis?
>> they are pet scans . it's like a guide. it measures radioactivity. we have invented a new chemical marker we inject. there's a radioactive tag. the scanner is measuring radioactivity. when you see the red in the scan, there's a lot of abnormal deposit.
>> let's say that we can, as we move forward in science make clear distinctions. all right, there is evidence of the corelation that those who play in the nfl are more likely to die with alzheimers. how much does that change the game for us in our lifetimes?
>> dramatically. i think it changes the game. i think 20, 30 years you might see a situation where football is outlawed for children under 14 where it's viewed as the same as operating heavy machinery. it also would cost too much to ensure the ability for children to play. there was once a boxer named buster mathis . his son said daddy, should i box or play football . son, please play football because nobody plays boxing. we might have to update that to say, you might want to look at boxing again. nobody really plays football because the risks are so high.
>> we were talking in the green room about your decision. you are not only a former player, but also the father of sons and the decisions you are making for your sons.
>> our boys are going -- when my wife was pregnant i said no football until 7th grade . they have to have a fundamental base for playing other sports. when he starts through puberty, you can stake the lows associated with football . this is 11 years before the tests and concussion scares came out. as parents, we have to understand why we are putting our kids in sports. is it because of team work or an end result. 80% of kids won't play after high school . you have to standardize the way it's coached at the youth level. three days of week of practice. things done in the nfl , you have to do it on the youth level as well.
>> i grew up in virginia, in a town where football was the center. it's a little transgressive for me to wear a jersey. i was a cheerleader for a football team . ift was the center of our social life . it's how we integrated ourselves. it's hard for me to imagine my town without football . the majority of these kids never went on to play professional football . are those young men who when they were boys we were rooting for them, are they now living with the physical and brain consequences of that?
>> i'm just like you, melissa. i grew up in denver, colorado. during sunday services, everyone was looking at their watches. you really want to preach because we need to go. we got home in time for the games. i lived in miami, where literally, you have families putting -- everything is riding on this kid. there are families that see this child as their way out of poverty. kids are playing way before 7th grade . it's almost a religion there. people are dedicated to it. our two boys, i grew up a football fanatic and our boys played soccer. we were against them going into football because of the head injuries . the difference between soccer and football is two days a week practice versus five days a week.
>> we are going to stay on this. we have much more to talk about including our complicity as viewers, lovers of the game in this question. stay there. up next, football 's toughest call. why some players are willing to risk their health for what feels like big money and a