David Madison/Getty Images Junior Seau

A dramatic story in the New York Times by Joe Ward, Josh Williams and Sam Manchester, "110 NFL Brains," will send shockwaves throughout the world of football and other collision sports. The article details the findings of a study done by Dr. Ann McKee and researchers at Boston University and VA Boston Healthcare Systems on 202 brains of athletes who played football at the high school, college, CFL and NFL levels. Eighty-seven percent of the players' brains were found to have some level of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The study of 111 brains of retired NFL players showed that 110 of them were impacted by CTE. This will reignite the discussion of whether football is a game that can be played safely, and a new focus on prevention and treatment.

Dave Duerson

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is an insidious condition caused by multiple blows to the head. As it progresses, the personality of the sufferer changes. Mood swings and depression follow. Memory loss, inability to hold a job and the breakup of families can ensue. Ultimately suicide may occur. The suicides of former players Dave Duerson and Junior Seau brought this to public attention.

The largest group of NFL players affected was the linemen. They make up the largest group of players, but there is another reason for their prevalence. Each time an offensive lineman hits a defensive lineman at the inception of a football play, it creates a low-level subconcussive event. An offensive lineman who plays high school, college and pro football could leave the game with 10,000 subconcussive hits. None of these may be diagnosed, as concussions and the athlete may be unaware of the severity of the hits. The aggregation of thousands of low-level hits to the head may be worse in their impact on the brain than getting knocked unconscious three times.

I started campaigning in the early 90s for more urgency in studying and addressing this issue. I would watch my NFL clients lying on the field knocked out and knew intuitively it must have long-term consequences. We held the first Concussion Conference in 1994 in Newport Beach with leading neurologists like Dr. Robert Cantu, Dr. Julian Bailes and Dr. Kevin Guskewiecz presenting their findings to a group of my NFL clients. We issued a White Paper with specific suggestions for prevention, from rules changes to helmetry and sent it to NFL teams and the League Office -- there was no response. We teamed with Dr. Keith Black for another.

In 2005 and 2006, Dr. Tony Strickland, The Concussion Institute, Warren Moon and I held conferences with the same neurologists and Dr. Bennet Omalu and David Hovda. It was reported that three or more concussions seemed to trigger an exponentially higher risk of depression, ALS, Alzheimers, dementia and CTE.

The existential threat to the continued play of football, hockey, field hockey and soccer are the concussions. If 50 percent of the mothers in this country understand these facts and tell their teenage boys, "We will support you in playing any sport, but not tackle football or hockey," it will not kill those sports.

But it will change the socioeconomic makeup of the players -- the same people who box and fight in UFC, knowing the risk, but needing to escape economic circumstances -- will still play. Fandom and viewership of a sport are dependent on some percentage of the audience having played the sport themselves.

I love football, but the concussions are a ticking time bomb and undiagnosed health epidemic.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.

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