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ESPN analyst resigns due to concerns over head injuries in football

Former NFL center Ed Cunningham has covered football for ESPN and ABC for almost 20 years, but today, he made the decision to walk away from the game he loves because he can no longer ignore the damage it inflicts on those who play it.

Cunningham, 48, told The New York Times that he’s resigning from his role as an ESPN college football analyst due to his growing discomfort about the number of head injuries in the sport. After calling games and watching injuries pile up over his 20-year broadcasting career, Cunningham said he cannot, in good conscience, continue to support and make a living off football.

“I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport,” he said. “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.”

“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham. “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

Cunningham helped lead the University of Washington to a national championship in 1991 and spent five seasons in the NFL. While with the Arizona Cardinals, he was teammates with Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in 2011.

“I know a lot of people who say: ‘I just can’t cheer for the big hits anymore. I used to go nuts, and now I’m like, I hope he gets up,’” Cunningham said. His eyes welled with tears. “It’s changing for all of us. I don’t currently think the game is safe for the brain. And, oh, by the way, I’ve had teammates who have killed themselves. Dave Duerson put a shotgun to his chest so we could study his brain.”

Football is still king in America, but Cunningham’s decision is yet another sign that the sport’s health risks could spell its demise. Don’t get me wrong; the NFL will still be the most popular sport in this country for years to come. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that lures fans in with the perfect mix of entertainment, interaction (gambling, fantasy football), and star power; but, at what risk? Last month, the NYT published a study from a neuropathologist that studied the brains of 111 NFL players. 110 were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), the degenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head.

More and more parents I know are refusing to allow their kids to play football because the sport is simply too dangerous. Five years ago, I would have laughed at that, but after reading all of the new research and hearing testimonies from former players, and now, broadcasters, I can’t blame them.

[New York Times]

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

19 Comments for ESPN analyst resigns due to concerns over head injuries in football

  1. Realme
    2:58 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

    I wonder if any of the studies take into account the improvement in helmet technology over the decades. Would current players be at the same risk as the retired players who are suffering now?

    • TonyMontana
      3:27 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      I did a little research and found these statistics: Players sustained 271 concussions in practices, preseason and regular season games in 2015, an increase of 31.6 percent over 2014, according to figures released by the league on Friday. Head injuries in regular season games alone surged 58.2 percent, from 115 to 182. Both figures were the highest in the last four years, according to the NFL. The majority of regular-season head injuries — 92 — were caused by helmet-to-helmet contact, which the NFL has sought to mitigate through increased penalties and fines.

      CTE is caused by repetitive brain trauma. This trauma includes both concussions that cause symptoms and subconcussive hits to the head that cause no symptoms. At this time the number or type of hits to the head needed to trigger degenerative changes of the brain is unknown.

    • bdmnky81
      4:10 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      Try this experiment: peel an apple, put it into a mason jar, wrap the mason jar in a healthy amount of bubble wrap/foam. Now walk outside and throw your bundle against a wall 60-75 times to simulate a game. Look at how bruised your peeled apple is afterwords. It doesnt matter how much you protect the outside, its the damage done by your brain bouncing around inside your skull.

    • catdaddyd
      6:31 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      I’ve never heard of this guy.

  2. Joe Dan Gorman
    3:08 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

    Good grief… what a bunch of pussies.

    Go play Nurfball Nancy—leave us alone.

    • TonyMontana
      3:34 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      Right?! I mean whats the big deal with getting banged in the head so many times that you eventually go crazy and kill yourself.

    • az1006
      3:36 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      Says the guy who doesn’t have CTE and doesn’t know anyone that does. Choosing not to participate in an activity that put’s one in harm’s way is not wrong…It’s smart. Recent studies have shown signs of CTE in some high school football players…Would you knowingly allow your kid to play football if there was a chance he’d have a significant brain injury now, or later in life? It makes no damn sense.

      All sports teach the same lessons: self-discipline, work-ethic, overcoming-adversity, teamwork, mental toughness, etc…So why not encourage your child to do something other than football when there are literally dozens of safer alternatives?

      I love watching football and hope it doesn’t go away anytime soon. But I’m certainly not going to criticize someone else for their view, especially when they had a front-row seat for years. And if I have a son, he’s not playing football. Period.

    • bdmnky81
      4:42 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      Who are you even talking to? Tyler? The former PRO football player?

  3. W F Reserve
    3:17 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

    The way he called the UK vs. UL football game last year I thought he had a concussion. One of the worst announcers I have ever listened to – very unprepared.

  4. secrick
    3:20 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

    I love college football could care less if they ever played a pro game. Would hate to see it end and i want and neither will anyone that reads this site but like she said maybe someday.

  5. Mc12
    4:14 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

    Play without helmets.

    • Mc12
      4:17 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      Put on the old leather helmets

    • njCat
      4:23 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      It would be interesting to see if CTE is a problem for rugby players. I suspect it is not.

    • BBNDan7
      5:36 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

      I knew a couple of rugby players in college and they said that concussions were less common because people knew that they didn’t have protection so they were less likely to try and kill
      Each thee.

    • I’m guessing it’s the same with Aussie Rules Football.

  6. 8xchamp
    4:38 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

    Maybe he can start a pillow fighting league

  7. Luether
    5:25 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

    Not quite sure how Ed Cunningham “resigning” is going to change anything – highly doubt that it will…

  8. A question I haven’t heard addressed: did they all have the same level of CTE, or different? Could I have some level of CTE from the times I’ve bumped my head on a cabinet over the years?

  9. dgtuk
    10:23 pm August 30, 2017 Permalink

    Pretty confident a relatively no name announcer deciding to give up his role because he cant stomach the head trauma violence of football is not going to change anything. It may improve ESPN announcing as the guy was awful. Have no issue with him taking a stand..hope he finds a profession he can be happy in.

    But lets get real. Life is a risk. We all make choices everyday that involve risk vs enjoyment. I didnt need the government to tell me cigarettes are bad nor that if i bang my head playing football there might be consequences.

    The study referenced was biased in that the sampling was from families who believed their loved one had CTE so surprise they were right. With more education, proper tackling education, better equipment and less pads on practices, the game is being made safer. It can never be totally safe! That is ok…i would play again..i would have no issue with my kids playing. I respect those who view it differently.

    Things evolve..when i played hs football, we were denied water in Aug two a days. not the case anymore :). Football will survive…in spite of those who lobby for its demise.