Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy has opened up about his concerns regarding the NFL and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that has been found posthumously in a number of former football players, in a letter to the Detroit Free Press.
The Free Press originally reached out to Levy to ask him to elaborate on comments made by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay comparing the risks of playing football to the side effects of taking Asprin.
Levy had initially responded to Irsay's comments on Instagram, writing “Frequent trips to the pharmacy makes you a medical expert on CTE?”
Levy, who was sidelined for the majority of last season due to hip injury, said in his letter to the Free Press that his time off allowed him to think critically about the issue.
“This last year, I had a lot of hours in the training room and realized how normal injury is to us, as football players,” Levy wrote. “I think about how we're almost numb to it because it's a part of the job. I became numb to the fact that CTE could be present in me. Like maybe my head buzzing a day after a game isn't normal. Maybe the emotional highs and lows of a football game/season and beyond aren’t normal. Maybe when I forget something, there's more to it than just forgetfulness. Disconnected thoughts, at times, might be a part of it. I know of and have heard many players talk about these same issues and if they relate to CTE.”
Levy goes on to discuss his concerns about how the league has handled the potential connection between the brain disease and the sport.
“This is an area in which the league has failed its players. Not only never talking about the risks, but some people going a step further to deny and cover it up,” Levy wrote. He added, “It's scary to think I may have CTE."
“The only voices we have on the subject are the league, which, unfortunately, has shown it can't be trusted. So far, we’ve had a rheumatologist with questionable credentials telling us that there is no link between concussions and CTE, aided in covering it up, yet is still employed by the NFL. I felt my initial questions about Elliot Pellman were fair, and every employee, fan and potential NFL player has the right to know the answer. They're still covering it up (not reporting 100 concussions, and, as of today, asking the New York Times to retract the story), and I have to question what else we will find out, years from now, that they are concealing.”
Levy then addresses why he continues to play football, despite his stance on the way the league is handling the issue of CTE.
“As I’ve stated before, I’m choosing to continue to play in spite of CTE or any other post-football health issue that may arise. But that choice doesn’t justify continued denial and deflection of this issue when we now know better and have the opportunity to do better,” Levy wrote.
“It’s unacceptable to prioritize the marketability and profitability of football over the real health risks associated with it,” Levy continued. “There have been scores of retired players coming forward with health issues, whether they’re related to CTE or not. We’ve found CTE in the brains of too many players upon their death. How can anyone, especially a team owner that has employed hundreds of players over the years, deny a link? It's true, we don't know a lot about this, but are they doing much to find answers? Are we going to continue to ignore even the slightest possibility that this is real?”
Levy has been vocal about his concerns on his Instagram page. He questioned Irsay’s comments and also posted a screen shot about The New York Timesreport that detailed how the league used flawed data in its concussion studies.
Earlier this month, an NFL official acknowledged that there is a link between football and CTE.