CTE and violence

CTE Violent Behaviour from Football?

When Noah Green, a 25-year-old with no known history of violence, crashed his car into a barricade at the Capitol building in Washington DC, killing one police officer and lunging at others with a knife, his family was left grappling for answers. His mother, Mazie Green, recalls the moment: “My heart just sank.” At first glance, this murder seemed unrelated to American football. However, three years later, Mazie believes it has everything to do with the sport.

Noah Green had played football in high school and later for Christopher Newport University. Teammates described him as dependable and good-natured. But after suffering several head injuries, changes became evident. He became sensitive to light, lost his keys, and forgot how to cook. “He started with these really bad headaches,” Mazie says. “One day he said, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, mum. I’ve lost 20 pounds… I feel like I need to leave. I’ve got to get out of the country. They’re going to kill me, the FBI, they’re going to kill me.’ He was paranoid.”

The FBI recommended analyzing Noah’s brain, and the diagnosis came back months later: stage one Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE, caused by repetitive blows to the head, affects participants in contact sports like American football. Symptoms include aggression, paranoia, and impulse control problems. Officer William Evans, the police officer whom Noah Green killed, left behind two young children. Mazie emphasizes the need for awareness among parents: “Someone has to take the responsibility for telling parents what to do if something’s just not quite right with those kids that are out there playing football for entertainment” 1.

This tragic case highlights the intersection of sports, brain health, and violent behavior. CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated head injuries or concussions. Although often discussed in relation to contact sports, it can occur in anyone who experiences repeated head trauma. There is currently no cure for CTE, but researchers are diligently working to change this 2.

Noah Green’s story serves as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of repetitive head trauma. His descent from a promising football player to a paranoid and violent individual underscores the urgent need for better understanding, prevention, and support for athletes. As we grapple with the impact of contact sports on brain health, we must prioritize safety and informed decision-making for players, coaches, and parents alike.

In a parallel development, Heather Anderson, an Australian rules footballer, became the first female athlete to be diagnosed with CTE. She played for Adelaide in the Australian Football League Women’s competition and tragically took her own life at the age of 28 3. Her case sheds light on the gendered aspect of CTE and underscores the importance of studying its effects across diverse populations.

As we continue to explore the link between CTE and violent behavior, it is crucial to raise awareness, advocate for research, and provide support for affected individuals and their families. The tragedy of Noah Green and the groundbreaking diagnosis of Heather Anderson compel us to take action, not only within the realm of sports but also in our broader understanding of brain health and its impact on lives.