He Was Fearless on a Football Field. But He Sensed Something Wasn’t Right.

In September 2018, just before senior day for college football, Evan Hansen opened his laptop and looked up C.T.E.

Comments: 121

  1. This shocked me with sadness. We as a country have to decide watching boys and men bash their bodies for our amusement can't be a national treasure as we all sat and watched the Superbowl. we are no better than the Romans watching the Gladiators. Rest in Peace.

  2. @vanessa It’s a metaphor for the rest of America. Those at the top get rich while safe in their offices and luxury boxes, while those at the bottom labor for their enjoyment and enrichment. Some from the bottom make it and some do not.

  3. @vanessa I think it is very important that we understand that in many ways we are no better than the Romans watching the gladiators. Other contact sports with a big following are war and crime. These are powerful addictions backed by the huge armament industries.

  4. Such a sad end to a promising life. So many things to try to figure out. As the article stated cause and effect are hard to pinpoint so CTE may not have been the cause of his depression. That said, any parent today who allows a child to play football is just plain wrong. Any taxpayer money that is spent funding football is just plain wrong. Unfortunately late adolescence is the most likely time for mental illness to develop. Many who struggle with depression seem quite upbeat in the days before they try to commit suicide or succeed in committing suicide. This is often due to the relief of making the decision and the idea of their tremendous pain ending. But, we also cannot overlook a big factor in this young man's death. He found an unsecured gun. I have no doubt that he would have not died that day without the availability of the gun. He called 911 but couldn't stop himself. Without the gun, he might have been able to. Gun ownership and laws must change. It's a national health and safety issue.

  5. Japan has outlawed nearly all private gun ownership since 1958. Its suicide rate is higher than America’s.

  6. I have two sons, the oldest of whom tried out football when he was in 5th grade. This was in 1996. He was then (still is) of a tall, but more slender, build. I suppose he would have made a good QB, but once I got a look at the other guys playing, who all outweighed him even then, I was immensely relieved when that season ended and so did his interest in playing. Our younger son never had an interest. True, people generally didn't yet know of the potential for long-term, horrific damage, but as we now know, the industry did. However, absent that actual information and knowledge, it was clear to me that the game is brutally dangerous. I never needed a study to confirm that.

  7. My condolences. But I have a question: That business about being fearless, enduring pain, sustaining injuries, surgeries, taping shoulders to stay in the game... The warrior machismo advanced by parents and coaches in youth leagues and college is a terrible fit with young men whose high testosterone levels propel them to seek out-sized acts of bravery in return for adulation from the community. Had not Evan developed C.T.E., the odds were very short that "normal" football injuries would have left him an arthritic cripple in his middle years. Parents and their kids are well-advised to not live vicariously through their kids, and to undertake a serious risk/reward analysis of playing hard-contact sports.

  8. I feel so sad thinking about the gun that was available at the friend’s house. Another challenging part of this heartbreaking story.

  9. I read this one through tears. Like Evan, I played football from a young age at Catholic. When I was six, my father suffered a fatal stroke while we watched a preseason football game together. It had an almost religious devotion to the game, and once, when Sister Thomas asked us for things to pray for during the school year at the beginning of sixth grade, I asked that we should pray that the Eagles win the Super Bowl. When I was a freshman in high school, I tore up my knee (drinking, not football) and the surgery was botched. I couldn't play anymore, and I cried every day after school for a full year. It is funny to look back, and to think about those times, and realize that I was lucky. Much love to Evan and his family.

  10. Reading this makes me think of the massive NFL marketing machine on display at the recent Super Bowl. I was particularly struck by the league's choice to have a young boy running the football into the stadium to start the game. They know all about CTE and the inexorable damage it does. And they know if they do not have the next generation of players subscribed to the dream the NFL is selling, they are not going to keep making the billions they make. So they will pretend to be concerned and keep sacrificing athletes' lives as long as they can.

  11. @Jeff M How about class action suits against the NFL?

  12. Well said. Now, turn off your TV and stop supporting the NFL.

  13. In my litany of offenses committed by my parents against me, there is the time I came home excited about an invitation to local Boy's Club- the feature being boxing. My father could have been a bit more gentle, referencing my wearing glasses, but their veto was absolute. Now, approaching my ninth decade, I am experiencing what is common among this cohort, a decline in cognitive ability that has been given the name of a disease, "Dementia or Alzheimer's" Unlike the tragedy of CTE which is caused by a sport with intentional repeated trauma to the brain, the ravages of aging are unpreventable. The traumatic contact of this sport, need not be part of the game. There is touch football, perhaps to be jazzed up with bells, flashing lights and sirens added. The brain of participants can be preserved to allow a full long life. Dealing with our imposed dependency of the elderly who survive to live out thjeir cognitive decline is as entrenched, as say, contact football. Both need to be redefined to their core.

  14. I do hope this article will save some other young men. Still, many the dangers of CTE were known even when Evan was quite young. His parents either didn't know or (more likely) shrugged and figured the scientists were wrong and let him play anyway. This tragedy could have been avoided had they listened to the evidence. And that makes the tragedy even worse.

  15. Thank you for your bravery and continued commitment to your son. I hope this message, from the center of football culture, and the love and respect people had for your son, will help turn the tide. Bless you and your family.

  16. Step One: End tackle football through high school. Go to flag football. The kids will still have fun, they'll exercise, the'll be on a team. But put them in helmets, even for flag football. They wear helmets skiing, biking, and they can wear them for flag football. And, by the way, kids should be wearing helmets playing soccer. Concussions happen there, too. Like I said, that's step ONE...

  17. @Katie , end it in primary and middle school.

  18. My son played against Evan Hansen and his team. The author of the article fails to mention the cultural intensity of rivalries in Midwest, small-college football. Wabash College is involved in the fourth oldest college football rivalry in America--126 years. I wept as I read this piece, just as I weep when I think of the potential dangers and unpredictable future that may await my son. It astounds me how so many here have the nerve to comment on Evan's parents, and on football itself, showing that they understand only potential outcomes, and next to nothing where football itself is concerned. While I know exactly where to start, it would require thousands of words...so I'll desist. How about some of you keep one thing in mind: young men understand these dangers, and they weigh costs and benefits. Some could no sooner walk away from this sport than they could stop breathing or eating. Cross-culturally and for millennia after millennia men choose risky behaviors to compete and to achieve glory. If you cannot understand, then, sadly, you cannot understand the human condition. There are so many dangers, so many risks for a person...football is one among thousands, and far, far from the worst. Think!

  19. If there is one thing that young men do not do well, it's weigh the costs and the benefits.

  20. @Russell Zanca You argue that the appeal of playing Football is that, since the dawn of time, "men choose risky behaviors to compete and to achieve glory"... Surely they can achieve glory in tennis, wrestling, basketball, debate team, etc while minimizing risk. And if they're so into risky behavior, they can go bungee jumping on the weekends for all I care. But you make it sound like boys are instinctively drawn towards the gladiator-ial nature of football and I do not agree. Boys are not moths to a flame of a clearly debilitating and dangerous activity. The only real reason they would feel that way is because their community and their parents push them towards this sport as a way of "proving their manhood". Perhaps if we as parents and townsmembers put as much focus and attention on the non-brand-rattling sports, we wouldn't be in this position.

  21. Oh I do understand. I know how people who don’t love football (especially boys) are ridiculed, even shunned by the community, and that this behavior is supported by parents, almost all of whom identify as good Christians. Not having the guts to stand up to it is a hallmark of how this same cohort has given itself over, heart and soul, to Trump. In these communities are people who have the same lawns, the same decor, they eat the same food, they take the same vacations, and they live and breathe football football football. They cannot be in any way different which is why, when someone is, they hightail it outta there ASAP. Football could kill all of their best and brightest but nobody would stand up to it without first looking over their shoulder to see if everyone else is doing it too. It is the close-mindedness of this culture and the unbelievable need to submit to it that gets them in trouble.

  22. Several years ago I tested a young man as a participant in our research on cognition across the lifespan. We give a large number of tests over multiple sessions that include assessments of memory, attention, learning, problem solving, frontal lobe functioning, IQ, attention, etc. The young man had transferred to the campus I worked at after his freshman year at an out of state division one NCAA school. As a red-shirted quarterback he had received what he believed to be his 13th concussion during his years in tackle football. It took him over 3 months to feel fully recovered. He was evaluated at the CU medical campus and was given a recommendation to end his participation in football. He stopped playing football. As a student participant in my research project he took dozens of tests and performed at or above average on every test. We made copies of all his results and provided them to him and his parents so that if he felt he was changing he had a baseline to provide for any new evaluations. I was greatly saddened by this young man's situation. I hope that CTE does not occur in the future for this young man who appeared, like the early Evan in the opinion article, to be a fine person.

  23. Tackle football is a manly thing that has had a huge following for a century. We now find out that it has a high potential for causing a very crippling, long-term illness. No amount of helmet technology is going to reduce this deceleration injury. How will society respond? Smoking was a manly thing to do for centuries. We now know it leads to early death. How has our society reacted to this? We will not do the intelligent thing. We will continue to allow it. Maybe we should stop paying for the care of patients that intentionally injury themselves or at least set limits to what society is expected to pay.

  24. @kirk While I agree that the evidence is strong that football leads to CTE, your idea could be extrapolated to myriad medical conditions caused or exacerbated by intentional behavior such as cigarette smoking, alcohol use, lack of exercise, poor diet etc. How would "society" decide what limits to set on medical care for these behaviors? All a moot point anyway if the Republican desire to slash medical coverage for those who aren't rich succeeds.

  25. I loved football. But now, I don’t even watch the Super Bowl. I don’t smoke anymore either.

  26. I'm a teacher for school where football is incredibly important. I've commented on articles about CTE before, and have always struggled with the role of football in high schools. Students of mine have received scholarships to some of the best schools in the nation because of their skills on the field. A former student of mine is excelling at SMU and is taking his studies very seriously because of the full-ride scholarship he was awarded. I've known the dangers of this game for years now while at the same time acknowledging its importance to many students and families. But this year, I've had four students (just in my classes) who have had concussions from football. One of these students experienced two concussions within months of each other. We study news and media in my class and I've specifically provided articles that demonstrate the dangers of this sport. The most common response by my football players is a pure dismissal of information when it comes to their favorite sport. Ad hominem about the author. "This guy is just mad because he probably wasn't a good player." "This author probably hasn't even played the sport." "Don't people know that helmets are completely redesigned?" I teach the importance of researching and finding the facts. These same football players are reasonable and calculated when learning a myriad of topics (even acknowledging the head injuries present in soccer). It's when football enters into the equation, the reason of these players exits.

  27. My heat goes out to these good people, who should be celebrating Evan and Brianna's wedding, not mourning his death. And even in their pain, this family chooses community service, seeking to protect others. Guns and football, two destructive cultural icons. There are other sports, and other ways for young men to bond. I do hope that warnings such as Evan's live on and move others towards protection of lives and community service rather than to denying facts and fighting attempts to protect others.

  28. CTE is still a new diagnosis unfortunately because of the sport industry push back to the labeling/diagnosis that something that brings in this much money could be so bad. My own children were in sports at 3,soccer,T-Ball etc. Both started wrestling in 3rd grade. I didn't start dance til 7 and Softball til 5th grade. There is such a feeling of accomplishment for a parent to see a kid do well in any arena. Even the coaches love watching the effortless sports play by the player that is truly good at it, where it seems innate. This article for me states the same conclusion I've come to see too many times. Young people start sports too soon,they are pushed even if it doesn't seem to be by others by themselves to please us,the adults. I'm not saying the parents or the coaches are to blame but the attraction of getting a jump on the physicality-if that is a real word- of game play or maybe the feeling that a child needs this guided play to make it instead of just goofing with friends at the creek. His parents are not why this happened neither are his coaches. In a way we all take blame for this. My deepest condolences.

  29. Tragic. I truly enjoy football, but it is clear that the game, as it is currently played, is overly dangerous for people. Something must change, and that probably must come from people who profit from and support the game. I must support change too.

  30. A valuable message to everyone. My heartfelt condolences and thanks to the Hansens. Thank you Mr Powell for seeing the value in writing about this very important issue: a significant problem with an obvious solution. Evan sounds like a fine young man—the Evans raised him well. The world is short one individual who would have been a welcome presence. I can’t help but wonder why schools sponsor football any longer. The goal of schools is to prepare young people for the future. For schools to be complicit in destroying one's organ for thinking is antithetical to what schools should be doing. We should be teaching healthy lifestyles—exercise that promotes life-long healthy habits: yoga, Tai chi, jogging, running, swimming, weight-bearing activities, etc. Once again we are letting the children down. This particular sport is one of those no-brainer issues that has an obvious and easy solution. Just where do American priorities lie? In this case a child was coached in a deadly sport from a very young age, grew up in a society that encourages it, went to schools that had organized teams to play it, in a country that avoids—and ostracizes—emotional and mental disorders with few readily available resources for those suffering from them, and a nation with an inordinate number of guns. An enlightened populace would do something about each of these issues. I think the author and Evans' parents hopes we will. Will we?

  31. As a high school teacher, I am particularly saddened by the story of this dear lad, Evan Hansen. I tried to recall why his name sounded familiar. Then I remembered reading reviews of the musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” The similarities of the name and of a young suicide but with radical differences in the two stories are striking. I gather this is a bizarre coincidence with no real connections. Mr. Powell, can you shed any light on this for me?

  32. I feel very sorry for the family's loss but I think this article is incomplete. The author appears to have only talked to Evan's parents and none of his classmates or teammates. Thus it appears that the only thing they can offer as an explanation for his depression was CTE. As a physician who worked at a college student health service for several years, I know that many suffer from depression from many different reasons and that their parents are often the last to know the things troubling them. Several years ago I wrote to The Times about concerns about a similar article on a University of Pennsylvania player who committed suicide and the author of that article similarly only talked to the family and chose not to really look into what was going on in the life of the young man who died. I would hope that The Times would strive to a higher standard of journalism even on its sports pages.

  33. @Steve "Many months later, the scientists at Boston University who examined his brain after he died told his parents, Chuck and Mary Hansen, what the couple had suspected from the moment they lost their son: The folds of Evan’s brain and top of his spinal column were speckled with the plaque Tau. This young man had developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative and incurable disease linked to repeated hits to the head and found in the brains of so many deceased football players." There is a strong correlation between CTE and mental illness. What you're saying would be similar to saying that the link between cigarette smoking and lung and throat cancers is not relevant. Of course, there may also have been social causes for Mr. Hansen's death, but one should not discredit CTE.

  34. @Steve While I agree that talking to his friends might have offered other insights, to suggest that the author did not "really look into what was going on" sounds like a dismissal of CTE playing an important role. Mental health issues often involve multi-layered issues, but this comment reminds me of the many pediatricians and university physicians who refuse to acknowledge the growing role of physical/medical causes of mental health symptoms (lyme disease, PANS, gut issues) and just refer kids and families to therapists and psychiatrists who fail to help because they are not addressing the underlying medical issues. This is the blind spot that worries me most. Hi parents took him to doctors, tried medications- nothing helped. In another article I read that he was seeing a counselor. These parents did everything loving concerned parents would do. It's the medical community that needs to get on the ball.

  35. @Steve While it is true he *might* have suffered from depression for some time (I did not know him and could not say), the connection between the CTE and the depression worsening to the point of suicide must be discussed.

  36. Every time I read about this I thank God my mother forbade my brother to play football. This poor family. I'm so sorry for their suffering, and even more for the suffering of this young man. He could been a rotter and it would be a terrible thing for him to have killed himself. The fact that he sounds like a complete sweetheart makes it all the more tragic.

  37. This is a sad story. But what is passed over as far as I am concerned is the phrase 'he found a gun'. Finding a gun makes suicide much easier. What killed this young man C.T.E. or the availability of a gun?

  38. @amp: Quite obviously, both.

  39. If you are on a school board, cancel the football program.

  40. Touching. Terrible. And for what? I am so sorry for the Hansen's loss.

  41. To parents of children thinking about playing football- Just Say No!

  42. @Laurie Sorrell I can't help but think that the NFL will begin recruiting in third world countries in the future. The NFL needs an unending pool of young people and their families who are willing to sacrifice their bodies and brains for the chance to make millions.

  43. This is the only place I can express my concern, as it is off limits to speak about this with my family. Thanks NY times for this important discussion. My nephew is playing college football. He is in his second year. He has played since he was a boy- started at five or six. He loves it. His high school football team was top notch, many players were recruited . He had several offers. One must not forget the economic reality of so many families. My nephew chose the school that gave him a full scholarship with fees and living expenses covered. This economic reality is a part of this push to be the best and get recruited - besides the love of football. There is absolutely nothing “free” about college football scholarships . I taught adjunct for a number of years and saw what the sports scholarship Students went through: their bodies constantly injured in some way. Really they need to state this in the contract- you are paying for college with your body- and brain. My immediate family has never been into sports- we went to museums and our interests were in the arts and science. My brother’s wife’s family was and is crazy over the top for football, this influenced my nephew and brother greatly and his kids entered into team sports ( there are so many benefits to this- but what about their brains? Even hitting a soccer ball with your head is bad. Very bad. Now I’m worried for my beautiful nephew . He could draw, he is smart and now I worry for his brain.

  44. @Lillian , tell him. Show him this story.

  45. THE GUN! Without the gun this young man would not have been able to so easily end his life. Gun laws need to be changed. Football also needs to change. Both are socially and financially ingrained into our current culture here in the USA. And the changes, if they ever come, will take a long time and more lives will be squandered.

  46. My heart goes out to his parents. Their pain must be beyond imagining.

  47. Any parent considering letting their children play football should watch the movie “Concussion”. Contact football is basically society-approved child abuse. The effects from this form of bodily trauma may not show up for decades. Building “manhood” and “team spirit” can be done in much less dangerous sports. Sadly, it manifested in Evan early, probably because he had started so young.

  48. Michael Powell has written a truly sensitive and powerful article. My heart goes out to Evan's parents and all who knew Evan.

  49. How sad. Unnoticed at Wabash by the coaches? That's beyond sad. And Wabash is a good college with high standards.

  50. The only thing we know for sure is that he knew he was in the early stages of CTE. If fans want to save football they will have to force radical changes in the rules to protect players' heads and stop supporting football if its authorities continue to prefer profit over players' health. The no targeting rule is clearly ineffective. Flag football, anyone?

  51. This is of course a very moving story about a young man gone far too soon. The Hansens are to be appreciated for their painful efforts to talk frankly about their son. One thing I find puzzling, however, is that in a story about CTE, the word ‘concussion’ is never used. Evan must’ve suffered repeated head traumas in his career. Was he ever assessed and diagnosed with a concussion? Did his coaches overlook times that he couldn’t remember the next play? It’s just hard to believe that playing with such abandon for 11 years that Evan never suffered a recognizable concussion.

  52. Tragic loss. Understanding that football is the most brutal sport with the shortest player lifespan should guide policy concerning what children can/cannot do e.g. laws concerning public safety. Third graders shoukd not be playing tackle football. Love of the game is fine, as long as there is clear understanding of the risks involved ; for adults. Football is the modern gladiator experience, though disguised so as to promote- there are billions involved. I love sports, I think in general, they are good for children. Its just too bad that the desire for violence on the football field ( a good hit) takes priority over changing the rules of the game to make it safer

  53. @nlitinme Actually football in the third grade is very rarely a problem. The forces little kids can generate are minimal. Football gets dangerous thereafter, as bodies get bigger, faster and stronger. Third grade football is most dangerous to the extent it leads to football in 7th grade and beyond....

  54. If there were some condition in the science labs on the Wabash campus that routinely, predictably, caused chemistry majors to come down with an incurable, chronic condition impairing their brain function and pushing many of them into depression and suicidal behavior, there would be a massive outcry. There would be demands to shut the labs down, and bring in experts to make whatever changes were necessary so that no more chem majors would get sick. Why is football different?

  55. @FJP Sadly, we must follow the money. Not from the young man's perspective, but from the perspective of the NFL and the enormous amount of money at stake if football were to undergo the kinds of changes it needs to undergo in order to keep players' brains safe.

  56. Football is fun, dangerous and risky, but so are a lot of other activities young people participate in (ice hockey, rugby, ski racing, rodeo, gymnastics, etc). To reduce the risk of brain damage from playing tackle football the following should probably happen: *Delay tackle football participation until high school (Tom Brady and Drew Brees) *Limit full-speed contact practices (NFL already does this (palyers union) but high school and colleges not so much) *Teach concussion awareness (players should report on themselves if they have a concussion and not rely on a doctor or coach to pull them out of a game) * Utilize and practice tackling techniques which don't involve the head * Players need to understand that playing through a concussion is hazardous and not macho! Young people will always test themselves by participating in dangerous activities. As long as colleges are in the entertainment business, there will be tackle football. If so, reducing as many risks as possible and refraining from throwing injured student-athletes on the scrap heap isn't too much to ask!

  57. This story is so eerily similar to the story of Zac Easter. My condolences to the families for their loss.

  58. My good friend in college 40 years ago got chewed up playing football. I truly believe Jack could have played in MLB. But high school glory took its toll. He died hitting a tree drunk. Now I wonder. I’ll keep watching gladiator sports, just don’t expect any empathy from this cold fed up old man. Don’t join the military and don’t play contact sports, we know the risks and no one seems to care. Glory calls.

  59. I played football in High School and all it gave me were two bad knees, a bad hip and a bad back and a broken nose. I don't watch Football anymore, it is too violent, it destroys the bodies of the players and it destroys their brains. If I hated, hated, hated, someone and their family what more could you do to them then have their child suffer CTS and then take his own life only to be discovered dead, by his father, in a lonely field. Ban Football, for the sake of your children, ban it now.

  60. This is so incredibly sad on so many levels. First, we know the risks to playing tackle football and yet thousands and thousands of parents sign their boys us each year. They rationalize that now tackle starts at later ages (age 11 vs. age 7) even though many medical and sport associations say age 14. In reality, it just isn't a safe game. Period. When will we learn? Second, what Evan hadn't had access to a gun? He'd still be alive more than likely. When we think about gun control, suicide prevention must be included in the conversation. Third, his parents. Their grief can be felt through the screen. I'm so sorry for your lost. NYT - Who is Chris? See paragraph....Chris volunteered at his church, working as a Spanish translator at a food pantry for homeless and poor families. At Joe’s Butcher Shop, he would greet regulars with a buoyant hello and a touch on the arm. At school he ran in no jock clique.

  61. As a high school baseball player, I remember saying I'd give my left arm to play major league baseball. A friend of mine, and the best player I ever saw, told me, "what do think they do?" Wise words from a high school senior. Looking back now, I can see it is true. The toll professional or high level sports takes on a body is severe. It is hard enough now to see the long term effects on arms, hands, legs, etc. But with football, we now see that the bargain is "I'd give my brain or my life to play football." And it is not just to play professionally. The trade these young men are making is so tragic. As a culture, we continue to celebrate football; the toughness, the leadership lessons, the passion. When will we say that the price is too high? Or, will we continue to answer the gladiator's question of "are you not entertained?" with a resounding yes. We accept the price these men pay so that we may be entertained. It's time to say enough.

  62. Flag football!! Would take some getting used to but in one generation that would be the standard for football. But oh no!! Taking the heavy hits out of football would be the same as taking heavy body checking and fighting on the ice out of pro hockey. Easily done by enforcing rule changes but alas, stadiums and arenas would be half empty. Take the violence out of these sports and BIG DOLLARS would be lost! Simply impermissible!! Dollars vs brain health is truly and literally a “no brainer” for the sports business! The culture of our country is sadly steeped in violence. Kids can’t turn on the TV without seeing guns in at least half the movies and TV programs that’s spoon fed to Americans everyday!! That’s one of the main reasons gun culture here is like nowhere else in the world. A pity!

  63. Flag football solves this. I've played for decades...if you REALLY need contact get into wrestling, sumo, or judo.

  64. This sad story could have taken an even worse turn had Evan's CTE caused him to develop violent tendencies, as it did Aaron Hernandez.

  65. There’s no evidence for that in Hernandez, but make up whatever you like so you can pontificate. Show us the science!

  66. The Catholic church needs to take a stand on football. Too many Catholic high schools and colleges are deeply invested in football. Notre Dame, BC, etc. The only high schools in my neck of the woods that play high quality football are Catholic. Evan attended a Catholic school and played on their football team. WWJD?

  67. “The ancient Athenians were as crazy about sport as modern Americans are. So were the ancient Romans and the Renaissance Italians. So are contemporary Britons and Germans. But we Americans are the only people in human history to ever got sport mixed up with higher education. No other country looks to its universities as a prime source of athletic entertainment.” -- Robert M. Hutchins, 1954 Perhaps detaching football from education could be a step toward diminishing its appeal and participation generally? The problem is in figuring out exactly how to accomplish that. Whenever you talk about altering a multi-billion dollar industry where so many people have their snouts in the trough the Devil is in the details.

  68. Gladiators. This is so desperately sad. RIP Change the station. Cut off the money. No more Jay Low.........

  69. And why is the NFL a non-profit organization?

  70. There are no football scholarships in Division 3. Kids like Evan who go to academically rigorous and selective schools like Wabash don't have any illusions about a future in football. If they play, it's because they love the game, which was clearly the case for Evan. Sadly, he developed his love for the game some years ago, before the connection to CTE was firmly established. His family is doing a great service by talking about how young kids today can be protected from long-term damage. We know enough now to start the movement away from the sport.

  71. Thank you for writing this. Evan's legacy still lives on in our hearts.

  72. This is why I no longer watch the NFL. It is the allure of the professional game and the presumed social benefits of playing football which draw many to the sport in their youth or High School years-- only to reap the tragic health consequences down the line. There are numerous other sporting alternatives, and I hope that Evan's and other's legacies are preserved through education. Football can simply never be made safe, and it should be something that as a society we must consider our support of.

  73. When will we stop playing and admiring this stupid game? Where is the thrill of watching boys and men bash their heads in? My son went to a private prep school where fall sports were required for freshmen and sophomores. He chose football and I used to pray the coach wouldn’t put him in the game, this is years before we became aware of the permanent brain damage we now know football causes. Junior year he chose not to play, when I asked why he replied, “the guys are getting too big for me”. Best day ever! Today, brain intact, he is a healthy, happy, successful father and husband. My heart goes out to this family and others who will never know the man their son could be.

  74. Of course, this is heartbreaking. The Hansens have my deepest condolences. This is all the more challenging because Evan started playing football well before the brain injury conversation was a nationwide phenomenon. I'll admit, the appeal of football is not easy for me to understand. I don't know any kids who play it and never have. The colleges that emphasize football are not popular with our high school students. (Almost no one attends BC, for example, but BU and Northeastern, which don't have football, are favorites). Football is highly cultural - the Hansens were right in the middle of it. I'm not sure what it will take to get rid of it.

  75. We are not going to get rid of it. It’s such a huge part of American culture. It is how people get their tribal urges fulfilled- ( besides politics)- People can sit on the couch and drink beer and yell and scream at these young men. Colleges have many teams, not just football, I had several female scholarship students. Lacrosse, soccer - volleyball - etc. It is truly amazing how strong, disciplined and talented these young athletes are. They look out for each other in the classroom and out of it. But yes, when they are your family, or students , and you see their jaw wired shut by being hit w a lacrosse stick ( women’s lacrosse does not require head and fave protection) or your young family member is having two surgeries after one and a half years of college football - it stops making any sense. Our culture is so competitive - so violent - football descended from the days of the colosseum. The well being of the people on the field don’t and didn’t matter to the spectators - just entertain us.

  76. So ingrained in our culture and genetics: I played war as a young boy with friends, reveled in westerns with their shootouts then graduated to football in HS. With all the studies and publicity on CTE you’d think parents wouldn’t allow their sons to play football but it’s still a badge of honor for the youth, a rite of passage into manhood, and a tribal bonding at games for supporters. Another Homo Sapiens activity that has me shaking my head.

  77. @Lillian true, but its not too late to stop it. It needs persistent education and deliberate breaking away from it and that comes from a commitment of stopping young people getting into violent sports. This barbaric sport has to come to an end.

  78. This was a tough read. Evan was one of my good friends in high school and all throughout college. He was a part of my friend group, which consisted of 9-10 other guys. I'll never forget the day me and the other guys received the news -- truly heartbreaking. All of us would talk about growing old and living in the same nursing home. We never thought one of us would fall. This was a very well written article and I hope it achieves the goal of helping other young men who might be suffering from the same symptoms. We miss you, E-Train.

  79. @Harrison King So terribly sorry for your loss... (I'm just a mom not far from Indy, with sons just like you and Evan and so close in age. I still am holding my breath. I 've witnessed how very tight a group of guys can get, ESPECIALLY when they have worked and sweated and fought together as a team: once set, the bonds go bone deep and last a lifetime. So my heart truly goes out to you and your buddies. Never fear, Evan's life and story WILL help change happen! I've seen it happen here in southern Indiana. Over the past 8 years a small movement has become a foundation called SamStrong raising money for cancer research. These stories do make a difference. 100% And isn't making some difference in the world, however small or large, a part of a great life? And a great life isn't measured by how many years we happen to live. It's quality not quantity. (Ah, hate to break it to you, though, I doubt you'll all get to be in the same nursing home unless none of you ever marry:))

  80. @Harrison King My deepest condolences. I'm so sorry you had to lay your friend to rest so young. Please watch out for yourself and your brothers. I hope you all make it to a healthy old age together.

  81. As someone who has worked in brain injury as well as psychiatric-mental health, this story saddened me so much. The torment that young man must have felt, and the despair he must have felt as he read about CTE. I salute his parents for being so willing to talk publicly and openly about what happened to him, in the hopes of it not happening to another young person.

  82. This is beyond sad, and for many sports- parents reading this, too close to home. My son was an ice hockey goalie for over ten years. He was hit square on the forehead by a slap shot with the sound of the impact being heard through the rink. Despite a state-of-the-art goalie mask, he was concussed and missed an entire year of hockey and had a very difficult time in school for a semester. His mom and I told him "That was your first and last sports-related concussion". Well, guess how that turned out? He wanted to play again, his coaches wanted him to play again, and his pals wanted him to play again. Dad and Mom caved and he played again. One "minor" concussion later he completed his high school career and his goaltending career. We still feel guilty and ashamed but we well and truly caved to the macho mentality that I was a part of during my high school football and hockey experiences. I am afraid part of this mentality is hard-wired in and might be generations away from fading out of fashion. Smoking took a long time to go out of fashion.

  83. @Fighting Sioux Please don't feel ashamed or guilty. You love your son and tried with all your hearts to give him the best.

  84. @Fighting Sioux - As an asthmatic child, I didn't have the lungs to play sports. Without any research but my own experiences, I project every male teenager wants to at least play if not excel in one or more sports. My experience as a young male & brother plus as a father rearing sons has convinced me that males want to compete (HS intramural sports). I hope the compulsion to compete never goes out of fashion.

  85. @Old Old Tom - Absolutely! And as is standard with most controversial topics these days, middle ground is hard to find. It is difficult for some to understand the compulsion to compete, especially in what is termed a "brutal" sport. I have no problem telling anyone I enjoyed hitting and getting hit in the sports I played. There are "life-lessons" learned from participating, not all of them are good, but there are good things to experience if your child so chooses. We have three boys, one played "House" league soccer, one was a Travel hockey player, and one painted and played guitar. All were encouraged and supported in their choices.

  86. I drove though Carmel, Indiana about 18 months ago. It is wealthy by Indiana standards. It has a cultivated air of invincibility about it. My teenagers and I drove through the public high school campus and were startled at the scale of the football facilities. I can only imagine what a shock it has been to this community that a star football player would fall to suicide and CTE. Perhaps a sense of vulnerability is humbling?

  87. When I was reading this terribly tragic story, there were distinct parallels to another recent Division III football player, Matthew Benedict of Middlebury College, who also took his own life after suffering concussions on the football field. Like Evan Hansen, Matthew Benedict was a football captain, played the same position of Linebacker, was also from a close-knit Catholic family, and interestingly, looked nearly identical to Evan. Matthew suffered from severe depression, just like Evan, in the years before his death. Evan and Matthew played football at the Division III level. They didn't even receive scholarships as they bashed their brains and sacrificed their lives for a game. When does this madness stop? It will only stop when academic institutions dissolve their football teams (and hockey and even lacrosse teams), and declare students will no longer suffer brain damage under the auspices of the institution. Division III colleges can take the lead here, and schools like Wabash College and Middlebury College need end their football programs immediately, and if they don't, shame on them, shame on them, shame on them!

  88. This is the tip of the iceberg. After years of stonewalling, the NFL was forced to admit the danger football - at every level - presents for the players but their focus on concussions and CTE is only part of the story. Not only can sub concussive contact, which happens on every play, lead to traumatic brain injuries and eventually CTE, but there is ample evidence associating TBI with violent behavior off the field as well. A direct line can be drawn between repeated head trauma and the kind of violence, domestic and sexual abuse that we see regularly in the headlines. And given the billions of dollars at stake, the NFL and the NCAA will continue limiting the discussion to their concussion protocol and avoiding the broader range of issues present he by tackle football.

  89. And head trauma can happen even if the head is not directly hit.

  90. The only way to diagnose CTE is to examine the brains of the deceased. So the relevant sample has always been very small. After a decade, all we know is that about 250 college and pro football players who have died suffered from CTE. There were thousands of NFL and college football players during the past decade. And we know very little with certainty about how many had the disease. Those who view the disease as an ever-present threat are extrapolating from evidence that doesn't support their conclusions.

  91. There is now a nuclear medicine study called tau positron emission testing (tau-PET) that might be able to make the diagnosis prior to autopsy. Stern et al, NEJM May 2, 2019 Let’s see where it goes.

  92. wow. I like the idea of human testing. Perhaps you'd like to volunteer your head for Several hundred if not thousands of low medium and high concussion like blows And we could increase the sample size to 251. And perhaps you could enlist other volunteers of like-minded people to do the same so that we can get to a point where N is statistically significant And we have conclusive evidence. Alternatively, you could begin a program to get those thousands of other High school, college, and professional football players all to agree to donate their brains upon death so they could be examined for signs of CTE. all it would take is several decades of collecting data while we continue to run the live Human experiment with countless others.

  93. In little league baseball, my 11 year old son was substitute pitching when a hit of unusual force whizzed by high speed an inch from his head. It would have done serious damage, if not killed him. He played 5th through 8th grade football as a starter on the line and never had his “bell rung”. He joined a rugby club and got rolled in his first game by a larger kid and suffered a concussion. By his choice, that was his last dance with rugby. He chose not to play high school football because he was tired of doing nothing but blocking. So let’s ban baseball and rugby too. As a parent, I was never more alarmed as when that baseball flew by his head.

  94. I join all others below in saying what a tragedy. My heart goes out to his parents for this unbelievable loss. No parent should live to see their children die. While this is indeed a sad story - I am also perplexed that out of thousands of kids who play football from young age - all the way to professional levels - this type of trauma appears to be in a very very small number of athletes. Why is that we read these stories of tragedies only with a very few while others seem to go on to normal lives - minus of course, the age related issues. God bless this young man and his family.

  95. Thank you. Correct.

  96. Perhaps, in time, sports with high probabilities for head injuries will either fade away or be legislated away. Till then the fatality list will continue to grow.

  97. 25,000 suicides/year in the US using guns "that don't kill people".

  98. It’s time to ban Div III football. What a disgrace. Just to attract more money to the school. Shameful.

  99. I don’t understand this at all. It’s just common knowledge in 2020. It’s called science and facts. “It’s such an ingrained part of our culture, to even say anything bad about it is like saying something bad about the pope.”

  100. This is a very moving story, and makes me glad that some family members opted not to play American football. We recently saw the play, "Every Brilliant Thing", which (among other things) deals with depression and suicide. The play recommends reading and following the Media Guidelines developed by the Samaritans, a UK suicide prevention group. To quote from their website: "Research shows links between media coverage of suicide and increases in suicidal behaviour. Read our Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide to find out how to cover suicide and self-harm safely." Here's the URL: https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/media-guidelines/

  101. Terrible events and may he Rest In Peace. Thai suicide, however, beats the hallmark of suicide as a side effect of anti-depressants, ie of a person making plans, setting up events, and then killing themselves. So sorry a loss!

  102. “Evan rose, found a gun...” Perhaps if that gun had been in a locked safe, we might be not reading this story. Who knows?

  103. What about the colleges that promote and profit from this barbaric game? They colleges exist to educate and protect children yet are complicit in these sad outcomes. The NCAA is more at fault than the NFL as it is the NCCA which dangles the carrot to entice the kids into this self destructive behavior.

  104. Americans need to come to terms with this. Football is simply not healthy for the players or our country.

  105. "....he was in his 11th straight year of playing tackle football with that relentless abandon of his." He was playing tackle football since the age of nine with relentless abandon. What did his parents or coaches think this would do to his brain. Or, did they even care until it was too late. I played football in High School and College and at 76 I have a noticeable mental issues. Fortunately I didn't play the linebacker position, if I did I can't imagine how my mental state would be. Coaches, Parents and school administrators must stop t his madness,

  106. But at least he got 2 sacks at the home coming game 2 years ago!! what a game!!! exhilarating

  107. It may sound cold, but I wonder when he started feeling depressed, why his parents didn’t try and stop him from playing any more football? I know it’s not as easy as it sounds but I wonder if they suspected it and didn’t say anything. When I started High School way back in the 60’s, I wanted to get on the football team. But no matter how much I pleaded, my Mom was having none of it. She refused permission and told me my body was not built to be rammed into repeatedly. A mother’s intuition way back then...Thanks Mom!

  108. @Bodyman I salute your mom! Wish all moms would stop kids at the very first warning of them wanting to join it.. Avoid football like a plague.

  109. Tackle football starting in third grade? Yikes. In the town where I grew up, which was in Big 10 country and took football seriously, there was no tackle football until high school. Of course that was a while ago -- billions and billions of dollars in TV revenue ago -- so things might have changed.

  110. And this is why I will have nothing to do with football. People who support this barbarity by watching it live or on TV encourage it and are therefore complicit in the results. Bullfighting and cock fighting are illegal because they are bad for the animals. Football is bad for people and it's OK?

  111. @MIKEinNYC "Bullfighting and cock fighting are illegal because they are bad for the animals. Football is bad for people and it's OK?" Caveat...people volunteer to participate. Animals, not so much. Your larger point is well taken, however. I played HS football. Badly as it turned out, for which I'm eternally grateful. My father begged me NOT to play HS football and for the first two years of HS I did not play. My mother got my dad to relent and I played my junior and senior years. Thanks pop...you were right.

  112. Thank you for a well written, compassionate, article. My son was one of Evan’s classmates, friends, fraternity brothers, and teammates at Wabash. The parents of the kids tailgate at every game and we got to know Mary and Chuck as friends and wonderful, dedicated parents to their three boys. Evan had a beautiful personality and a smile that could disarm anyone having a bad day. Win or lose (mostly win at Wabash), feeling good or hurting from a brutal game, the boys would always stop at the tailgate after the game to say hello, grab some food and a hug, and head off to hang with the rest of the fraternity and occasionally study. The ritual of it all is part of the appeal of the game. Like many players on this team my son started flag football in kindergarten and tackle football in 4th grade. D-III players play for the love of the game and their teammates. We were at Evan’s funeral and I’ll never forget the painful scene watching the whole Wabash football team file off their buses, tears streaming down their faces, and filling the church. The bewildered pain these young, strong, seemingly indescribable men felt was palpable and heart wrenching. I consider Mary and Chuck heros, so strong in the face of tragedy, they comforted everyone there with their grace. Rest In Peace Evan and God bless Mary, Chuck, and the rest of the Hansen family.

  113. @Cousy Yours was an excellent comment, and the addenda are good too. This was a sad story about an antiquated sport. Alas, football will not go quietly. Football is a war for territory on a field, and a gladiatorial spectacle held in stadiums. Football resonates with the violence inherit in American culture. For many, playing the game is a crucible to test manhood, and a way to achieve an identity. It also has a rhythm, a starting and stopping, which makes it perfect for television. Some have said the organization of a football team is reflective of corporate America with hierarchical management and specialization. Unlike baseball which is 90% dependent on one player, the pitcher, and basketball which is an abstract series of permutations, football has a Tinker Toys structure which makes it easy to comprehend and allows for speculation by the average fan. Every play starts regularly on a straight line. Ordinary Joe can understand football. While it has a lot of qualities that make it entertaining, football is much too dangerous to the health of the players, and should be abolished. I believe we could love soccer as much as those in the United Kingdom love international football. There is an opportunity awaiting someone who figures out how to change over 100 years of violent football culture and inertia.

  114. Important article, not for sure but very likely this young man's suicide was caused by CTE from football injuries. I again appreciate my hometown Pediatrician who, while on the school board, prevented "Peewee football" in my grade school and junior high in the 1960s. I played High School football and avoided full speed collisions playing an offensive guard position but needed knee surgery at age 65. It's an exciting but too rough of a game for youngsters and they should play flag touch football or soccer and the NFL should maximize research on football injury and injury preventing rules and safety equipment. G Bachem, MD

  115. Football is dangerous to the brain with multiple sub concussions and concussions making the brain vulnerable to tau accumulation and the development of C.T. E. The young brain before adolescence is likely especially susceptible to harm from this brain trauma and playing tackle football before the full maturation of the brain is probably unwise. However, even the youthful brains of high school and college athletes and the young adults in professional football have a very high risk to develop this dangerous pathology. Given these facts and reality, it would be wise to scientifically investigate the effects of playing football in a large thorough study to further elucidate its neurological risks and define the percentage of players who are at the highest risk. I feel if that is done, that tackle football may need to be banned for health reasons and our society will have to adjust to enjoying the fall without watching this beloved and iconic game.

  116. Based on what we know, and have known for several years, responsible parents should be strongly discouraging their children from playing tackle football, especially before high school. The more years they play, the greater the danger becomes. It is not concussions alone that cause the most damage, but rather the repeated concussive impacts on every play both in games and practice sessions.

  117. I love you Evan

  118. The unmodfied power of the internet to take all hope away is what galls me. Hansen looked up CTE and felt helpless.

  119. While something about the personal involvement with aggression just turns me off, I probably would have found a seat in the Roman Colosseum and enjoyed watching the lions eat the saints

  120. I just hope and pray that this barbaric game ends as soon as possible. There are other intelligent and tactical games to enrol in. I just sincerely hope that our parents and young people become acutely aware of dangers of this game, and dont get into it at any cost. I hope the game dies out because there is nobody to play it. God bless Evan and his beautiful spirit.