Chris Henry's Medical Reports Illustrate an Alarming NFL Reality

Angie MeyerContributor IIJune 30, 2010

CINCINNATI - 2009:  Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by NFL Photos)
NFL Photos/Getty Images

It's no surprise that football injuries can ultimately lead to degenerative problems for players years after they hang up their cleats.

After all, one can only be tackled, pushed down, and hit in the head so many times before medical issues become peril.

In fact, studies have shown the average lifespan of a professional football player is 57 years old. To really put things into perspective, compare that to the average person, who, according to "Our Special Place in History" lives to be 67.2 years old. Thus, a footballer's life expectancy is ten years less then the average person.

This week, a very uncomfortable reality came forth to the NFL world, after the media was briefed with the results from Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry's medical report. Chris Henry died in November after falling out of the back of a pick-up truck in North Carolina. The autopsy results showed their was no alcohol in his system from the fall, however something very startling was front-and center in his charts. It turns out that perhaps his death was not only preventable, with proper remedies, it may have been avoided.

Researchers have found ample evidence of a football-related trauma to Henry's brain, that should have been a red flag to his players and coaches in the months leading up to the accident. The reports showed that Chris Henry's brain showed vital signs of "chronic traumatic encephalopathy." This condition affects the neural system, and is common among athletes who suffer numerous concussions and head-blows. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a leading cause of broken blood vessels, and scarring of brain tissue. It's a degenerative disease, and leads to dementia, declining mental ability, and sometimes death.

Chris Henry was never diagnosed with the disease while he was alive.

Hopefully these findings will be a wake up call to professional athletes. Because of his altered state of mind from the disease, his decreased mental capacity could have led to his fall. How sad is that? Had doctors found Henry's disease earlier, his death could have potentially been avoided. All athletes should heed this mental note and undergo regular check-ups.

Again, we'll beg the question. Is the love of the game worth the pain and pressure? 99.9% of athletes will tell you... absolutely. What do you think?

Stay Lovely in Thought,