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The "staggering" brain injury threat to football players detailed in an new CTE study could leave school kids and their parents questioning whether their love of the game outweighs the potential health hazards, a former player and local coaches say.
"A lot of people play for the passion of the game," said Frank Nuzzo, a former player at Everett High and Brown University whose career was derailed by concussions.
"At some point if you have to start weighing your health, and there are direct studies - and you know that the only thing you're playing for is the love of the game - is the love of the game enough?" Nuzzo said. "I think there are a lot of people who will make those types of decisions."
Boston researchers released their bombshell findings yesterday, showing that of 111 brains of former NFL players they studied, all but one showed signs of the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
"I have to say, initially when I see those numbers it certainly is alarming," said Blackstone Valley Tech football coach Jim Archibald. "The numbers are certainly higher than I would have expected. I guess maybe because all you hear about are the precautions taken toward player safety these days, 99 percent is a staggering number."
Milford coach Anthony Vizakis said he could see the findings deterring some parents and young athletes from playing, though he said that with better techniques and equipment, football is the "safest it's ever been."
"It will be an eye-opener," Vizakis said of the study. "But with the enhancement in helmet technology, with the enhancement in rules, things like that, I think it's still going to be a popular game. And it's still going to be the most-watched professional sport."
Ryan O'Toole, a rising senior and captain of the Milford High football team, said he's never questioned turning away from the sport because of safety.
"Back then, it was 'hit the guy in front of you as hard as you can.' I think it's different now. I definitely feel safer," O'Toole said.
"I've had friends who have had concussions and a lot of times it's from the things you try to avoid, hitting with your head. It's just uncommon now," he said. "The game has changed for the better, for sure."
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