With a new football season underway, NFL broadcasters and advertisers are expected to reach a very wide TV audience. Of the 50 most watched TV broadcasts last year, 33 were NFL games.
In October, as it has done each year since 2009, the NFL is promoting cancer awareness with its "Crucial Catch" campaign during its broadcasts. Players in past seasons wore special uniforms to show support for those diagnosed with cancer and to stimulate greater disease awareness. In the past 12 years, the NFL has raised more than $18.5 million for the American Cancer Society, and I applaud the NFL for taking this leadership role.
Another leadership role well suited for the NFL would be to have players wearing purple on their uniforms in November to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia kill more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
According to a study reported earlier this year by researchers at Penn State University, “a single head injury could lead to dementia later in life. This risk further increases as the number of head injuries sustained by an individual increases.”
In 2014, a successful lawsuit filed by retired players against the NFL concluded that “former players between 50 and 59 years old develop Alzheimer's disease and dementia at rates 14 to 23 times higher than the general population of the same age … and … rates for players between 60-64 are as much as 35 times the rate of the general population.”
The NFL knows it has a problem and has taken measures to try to prevent and lessen the effects of concussions. Unfortunately, even though concussions were reduced about 5% in 2020, Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president, had to bluntly admit, “This is progress. This is not success.”
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Month, asking people in the United States “to observe that month with appropriate observances and activities.” That year, 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s.
Today more than 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in this country with no effective means of prevention, treatment, or cure.
With players wearing purple on their uniforms, NFL broadcasters and advertisers can educate people each November about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, while also helping to raise money for research.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell once cited a principled stand taken by his father, former U.S. Sen. Charles Goodell, when the senator explained why he spoke up in opposition to the Vietnam War. Charles Goodell said, “It’s not easy to know what is right, but when you do know what is right, you have to have the courage to do it.”
Commissioner Goodell surely knows that it is right for the NFL to help promote Alzheimer’s awareness and research each November. The only question is, does he have his father’s courage to do what is right?
Allan S. Vann is a freelance writer and former caregiver to a spouse with Alzheimer’s.
Published in The Buffalo News on 10/16/21. Access at: https://buffalonews.com/opinion/another-voice-nfl-should-do-its-part-to-raise-alzheimer-s-awareness/article_22c1edd6-2cf1-11ec-b2c0-eb7a546cd015.html