When I die, I don’t much care what happens to my body.
I long have been an organ donor, and it’s written on my driver’s license. The idea of medical people with scalpels harvesting whatever’s of value in my corpse for the benefit of others somewhere seems like a nice final gesture. Remember, I’m dead.
So it wasn’t a great leap to pledge even that ultimate thing that makes me human — my brain — to researchers at the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston.
That is the organization that took the earliest data — some from independent pathologist Bennet Omalu, who examined deceased Hall of Fame center Mike Webster’s brain and found it terribly riddled with the disease now known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy — and has led the way in football-concussion research.
Last Tuesday, the group released a report that said 99.1 percent of the NFL players’ brains it has dissected have shown signs of CTE. Even though the brains examined were not random — they came mainly from players who had displayed signs of dementia and other tragic disorders after football — the scariness of the statistics did not go unnoticed by the healthy.
Two days later, 26-year-old Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel, who plans to get a doctorate in mathematics from MIT, retired
from the NFL, apparently because of the news.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said: ‘‘You can’t have a brain transplant. If you want to mess with your brain, go ahead. I’m not going to.’’
The thing is, Roethlisberger already has. His 13 seasons in the NFL and a serious motorcycle crash mean he’s right there in the CTE danger zone. He’ll find out someday if his brain has been shaken and blasted enough to cause him future suffering.
Seven years ago, I watched as Dr. Ann McKee, the lead author of the recent CTE report, dissected a brain in her lab in Bedford, Massachusetts. The brain had just come in, and it was from a former NFL player.
As I observed McKee in her scrubs, holding…