In the next several weeks, tens of thousands of kids in this country will suit up and start football practice. The vast majority never will suffer the same fate as Chris Henry. That doesn't mean that the parents who sign their children's permission slips won't be white-knuckling it when their kids play.
The clinical term is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E). Doctors know it more commonly as dementia pugilistica: Punch drunk. That's what the study of Henry's brain showed. It can only be discovered by autopsy. Current players could be suffering from it and have no idea.
"There isn't a lot of information out there, especially with someone Henry's age (26),'' said Dr. Francesco Mangano, a neurologist at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati. "It's usually found many, many years after it happened.''
How shallow is the understanding? Show of hands: How many believed Chris Henry suffered from C.T.E.? How many just thought he was another athlete who had several off-the-field problems, the poster player for an NFL image problem that has kept commissioner Roger Goodell's door revolving?
Could at least some of Henry's off-field behavior issues -- five arrests in 28 months, numerous league suspensions -- be attributed to his injured brain? "Based on the description (of the C.T.E.) yes,'' Dr. Mangano said. "But he had other things going on. It's a very gray area. It's a chicken and egg type thing.''
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