PITTSBURGH — Former Steelers running back Merril Hoge said all the talk about concussions and the brain disease CTE is ruining football.
Hoge said the debate on the issue is too one-sided and football is the safest it's ever been. He believes there is a war on football, and he's on a mission to find answers about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
His thoughts are all in a new book called "Brainwashed."
"I went across the country and Canada. I met neuropathologists who have been studying brains for decades, and I'd ask them, "Tell me what is -- CTE.'" (They'd say) it's a pattern. We don't know what causes it and we don't know what it causes,'" Hoge said. "The science community is screaming. This narrative that's been created, there's no scientific evidence behind it, but here's what happens, nobody reads the science papers."
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Hoge co-authored the book with forensic pathologist Dr. Peter Cummings. He believes headlines, lazy journalism and hidden agendas are the reason football is being targeted.
Hoge said the dwindling number of youths playing football is a direct result.
"It's what they've seen in the headlines or read or heard about, but it's not really what people know. People say they aren't going to let their kids play football because they don't want them to get a concussion. I say, 'Do they ride a bike?' and (parents) say, 'Yes.' I ask, do they wear a helmet? (Parents) say, 'No.' I'm like, 'That makes no sense,'" Hoge said.
Hoge considers himself a concerned parent, too, but he said that's why he's calling for more research. He believes the narrative that's been created is simply incomplete.
"They've been working on Alzheimer's disease for over 100 years. One hundred years of doctors, papers, thousands of brains have been looked at and they still don't know what causes it. So you're going to tell me that they do a couple of papers on CTE and they've discovered everything? It's a pinprick to all of the work that needs to be done," Hoge said.
While he's skeptical of what's being said about CTE and football, he's very optimistic about protocols in place at several levels for concussions, and even therapies he's own son has gotten in Pittsburgh after suffering a concussion. Hoge's son plays football at Brigham Young University.
"I tell parents to, 'Educate yourself. Get involved. Find out what your kid is passionate about and look into that sport,'" Hoge said. "Is there head trauma protocol, hydration protocol? 'What do they do in practice?' Ask those types of things, get involved in it and then you'll feel better and more comfortable if you let them play."
Hoge has made that his quest. He said to seek more information, ask questions and don't let headlines create fear for the future. He doesn't believe football is doomed.
"Actually, I think that we have the most exciting time in the history of sports. If parents and people know the true facts about the science and all the things that are available -- from protocols, to treatments, therapies, equipment, instruction, parents should be the most excited they've ever been that their kids get to play today," Hoge said.
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