SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 11: Zach Thomas #54 of the Miami Dolphins watches from the sideline during the NFL game with the San Diego Chargers on December 11, 2005 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Dolphins won 23-21. (Photo by Stephen Dunn /Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Zach Thomas
With increasing concern over relatively high occurances of dementia and other memory disorders among athletes, and the need to better understand and prevent concussions and brain trauma, more and more NFL'ers are agreeing to donate their brains to science.
Among them is former Dolphins great Zach Thomas, whose brain might just be the most helpful ever pledged to the Boston University School of Medicine's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. The legendary linebacker suffered approximately 87 million horrifying concussions in his long NFL career, give or take a few, leaving worried fans and journalists begging him to give up the game for his own good.
Thomas, of course, always said he was fine, and knowing him his grey matter will probably spring from his noggin wrapped in athletic tape and ready to go another season. But with even the NFL -- once so resistant to admitting a risk -- on board with further research, Thomas is obviously taking the issue seriously.
"I would like to make sure the game of football survives," he said. "The scientific findings to date are clear that repetitive trauma to the head results in CTE in many athletes. I want to do my part to help the researchers understand this disease and to discover treatments and an eventual cure.
"This is not just about professional athletes who may know there are risks to the game. This is about making sure that the game is safe for all of those children playing the game today and in the future."
The Center's scientists say the only way to grasp and combat the problem is to monitor a large group of players while alive, and then study their brains after death.
Natually, we hope Thomas lives forever and remembers every minute of it. But we also hope researchers are able to make some headway on this as soon as possible -- as beloved and entertaining as football is, it's certainly not worth such traumatic results.
So far, about 250 athletes including 60 current and retired NFL players have agreed, and signed alongside Thomas in committing their brains to the cause.