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ANNALS OF RISK MANAGEMENT: SUPER BOWLS, SUPER RISKS
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ANNALS OF RISK MANAGEMENT: SUPER BOWLS, SUPER RISKS

We are approaching Super Bowl weekend, which may or may not interest you: you may feel indifference perhaps due to the absence of the Patriots, or you may simply have no interest in this great American obsession. However you feel about the game, you may want to reflect on the career of Kenny “the snake” Stabler, star quarterback for the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s.

Stabler’s statistics are impressive. He was a league MVP and winner of the Super Bowl forty years ago in 1976. He retired after 15 years. His post-career problems were substantial: he could barely walk on two damaged knees and he suffered a precipitous mental decline. After he died from colon cancer in July of last year, his brain was sent to Boston University, where it was examined for chronic traumatic encephalothopy (CTE). In death he joins a long list of players whose brains reveal serious deficiencies due, presumably, to the violence of their chosen game. Stabler had high stage 3 CTE (on a scale of 1-4).

“He had moderately severe disease,” said Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System and a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University School of Medicine, who conducted the examination. “Pretty classic. It may be surprising since he was a quarterback, but certainly the lesions were widespread, and they were quite severe, affecting many regions of the brain.”

Football has left a bitter taste with Stabler’s daughter Alexa:

“He played 15 seasons in the N.F.L., gave up his body and, apparently, now his mind,” Alexa Stabler said as she fought back tears. “And to see the state that he was in physically and mentally when he died, and to learn that despite all the energy and time and resources he gave to football — and not that he played the game for free, he made money, too — without the knowledge that this is where he would end up, physically and cognitively, and for the settlement to say you get nothing? It’s hard not to be angry.”

The timing of the CTE finding is both instructive and troubling. For those of us preparing to enjoy the spectacle of the season’s final game, we would do well to remember Kenny Stabler. There is an incalculable cost to this most entertaining of games.

Jon Coppelman
Senior Workers’ Comp Consultant

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