I want to make clear that the subject of today’s newsletter is especially difficult.
It involves a Boston University study of athletes who played contact sports — like football — as children and died before turning 30, many by suicide. The Times has just published an interactive article about the study, including childhood videos of the athletes and filmed interviews with their parents.
The article begins with a heartbreaking recording that Wyatt Bramwell, who was 18 at the time, made minutes before shooting himself in 2019. “The voices and demons in my head just started to take over everything I wanted to do,” Bramwell tells the camera as he sits in the driver’s seat of his car. He goes on to ask his father to donate his brain to be studied. Bramwell then tells his family that he loves them and says goodbye.
He was one of the 152 athletes whose brains the Boston University researchers studied. More than 40 percent — 63 of the 152 — had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head. Of the 63, 48 had played football, while others had wrestled or played hockey or soccer. Some had never played beyond high school.
In the interviews with parents, they talk about what they would — or would not — have done differently.
“There is a line between the love of a game and the dangers it presents, and even those who have lost a child cannot agree where it is,” writes the team of Times journalists who produced the article — Kassie Bracken, John Branch, Ben Laffin, Rebecca Lieberman and Joe Ward. “But as we learn more about what contact sports can do to the brain, it may be harder to justify letting children play.”
Although much about C.T.E. remains unclear, the risks clearly seem to rise with time spent playing football or another contact sport. For that reason, many C.T.E. researchers recommend that young children play only touch or flag football. Some experts believe tackle football should not start until high school.
Other people, no doubt, will ask why tackle football exists at all. It almost certainly isn’t going away, however. N.F.L. games made up 82 of the 100 most watched broadcasts in the U.S. last year. Both college and high school football are beloved rituals. Several holidays, including Thanksgiving, revolve partly around football.
But if football is the country’s leading form of popular culture, it is also one that kills some of the people who play and love it. Figuring out how to make it safer remains an urgent matter of public health.
You can read my colleagues’ story and watch the embedded videos here.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 for help or visit.
Cassie, an R&B singer, accused the music producer Sean Combs of rape and physical abuse. Combs, known as Diddy, denied the accusations.
Members of the United Autoworkers Union approved contracts with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, securing big wage increases.
A major section of a freeway in Los Angeles, on Interstate 10, that was shut down because of fire damage is expected to reopen no later than Tuesday.
A jury deadlocked in the federal civil rights trial of a former Louisville police detective involved in the 2020 raid that killed Breonna Taylor.
British regulators approved a sickle-cell disease treatment derived from CRISPR, the gene-editing technique.
A Chicago train struck a plow on the tracks, injuring dozens.
Orchestras have the power to revive cultural diplomacy between the U.S. and China, Matías Tarnopolsky, the head of the Philadelphia Orchestra, argues.
House Republicans’ fights over spending have nothing to do with policy; the fighting is the point, Molly Reynolds writes.
Here are columns by David Brooks on antisemitism and Michelle Goldberg on Representative Jamaal Bowman.
Modern Love: Fancy cheese — or what it represented — came between them.
Lives Lived: Sally Darr achieved culinary renown in the 1980s when she opened La Tulipe in Greenwich Village. It offered exquisite yet homey French cooking — and agonizing delays resulting from Darr’s perfectionism. She died at 100.
Sideline reporter: Charissa Thompson, a Fox Sports and NFL on Prime Video host, said that shein halftime reports in the late 2000s.
N.F.L.: The Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-20, in a big divisional matchup, but Joe Burrow’swas the story of the night.
Michigan scandal: Wolverines coach Jim Harbaughhis three-game suspension rather than fight the Big Ten in court, as both he and the university signaled earlier in the week.
M.L.B.: League ownersa plan for the Oakland Athletics to move to Las Vegas.
ARTS AND IDEAS
New art form: Audio descriptions help blind and visually impaired people experience dance performances, narrating the show through a headset. But they can often be stale, lacking the emotion of the choreography.
Recent experiments, like the film “Telephone,” are changing that. They are turning audio descriptions into a space for artistic exploration. The audio is rich and evocative, matching the power of the dance. Listen to an example.
Related: The artist Christine Sun Kim relies on closed captions, but thinks most of them “suck.” She rewrote some in.
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