When Junior Seau decided to end his life with a gun shot to the chest, public speculation began immediately. Sports Illustrated put it like this:
Did the game Junior Seau loved help take his life? We don’t know. We don’t know why one of the greatest linebackers of his generation shot himself in the chest Wednesday and died at 43, leaving behind three children. It’s entirely possible his demons came from other external factors. Maybe they were always there. We don’t know. But given everything we’ve learned in the past few years about the brain damage caused by repeated head trauma, the immediate reaction is to point the finger at football.
That’s the biggest problem the sport has right now. Not bounties. Not performance-enhancing drugs. It’s the mounting evidence that repeated shots to the head could be slowly killing football players. Even if it had nothing to do with Seau’s death, football has lost the benefit of the doubt. Every time a far-too-young ex-player dies after suffering some sort of mental distress, football will be the prime suspect.
To counter the hand-wringers, Slate put up a piece titled The Concussion Panic.
In this article, a broad CDC study with a small sample size is cited:
The CDC study was designed to look for fatal cases of cardiovascular disease among the athletes. (It found one-third fewer than expected.) But the researchers also compiled numbers for more than a dozen other categories of disease and injury, including suicide. Former players were 42 percent less likely to die of cancer, 86 percent less likely to die of tuberculosis, and 73 percent less likely to die from digestive problems. And among the athletes who regularly played professional football between 1959 and 1988, a total of nine perished as a result of “intentional self-harm,” compared with an expected number of about 22. The sample size was small, but the effect is large: Ex-NFLers were 59 percent less likely to commit suicide.
So whatever, football players get paid millions and have great health insurance all their lives, right? What are they depressed about? Scab refs making shitty calls on the field?
If you want to have a good reason to kill yourself, join the US military. Back in June, the NYT reported on suicide deaths outpacing combat deaths in Afghanistan.
The suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has spiked this year, eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago, the Pentagon said Friday.
I’m sure the VA is all over that crisis for our veterans with adequate mental health services, right? And that is totally not an entitlement/govt’ assistance program, right?
But it’s not just veterans and football players killing themselves. From sea to shining sea, Americans are allegedly choosing to commit suicide at an increasing rate, overtaking the notorious car crash as cause of death:
Suicide has overtaken car crashes as the biggest cause of death in the US.
New data shows that suicide has risen 15 percent over the last decade, while car crash deaths have dropped by a quarter.
Car crash deaths have decreased due to new safety measures implemented by the government but researchers feel that other causes of death may need to be addressed more now.
That last part is priceless.
Yes, lets address those other causes of death now.
But they can’t be addressed, not in our current paradigm.
In our current paradigm, the increased suicide rate is a snarky angle for an Obama joke, for some.
I fully accept the accusation of being humorless for not taking that sad jab at Obama more lightly. IMHO, this trend as punch-line misses a deeper sickness that goes way beyond party.