America loves its football, and football fans love a big hit. For years, the National Football League (NFL) prepared promotional videos showing the biggest hits from each week – videos its network partners eagerly aired to gin up even more interest in the coming week's games.
But those "big hits" were the genesis of a shameful legacy in the NFL: Concussions – and a terrifying disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is a degenerative brain disease brought on by too many big concussions received over the years. CTE causes memory problems, cognitive difficulties, and, eventually, even dementia.
To be fair, CTE is also a problem among combat military personnel, hockey players, soccer players, pro fighters, and others, but the CTE story broke in the NFL.
But there is no cure. In fact, it can't even be diagnosed in a living brain; a post-mortem examination is needed to even find CTE.
And it has caused plenty of deaths. Several NFL players with CTE have committed suicide; a few have committed murder. Dozens of others have surrendered what should have been a happy retirement to a lifetime of pain and mental illness.
And the NFL almost surely knew. How could it not?
The league even paid a settlement in excess of $1 billion to avoid a trial in which evidence scheduled to be presented would have suggested just how much they knew… and when they knew it.
To its credit, the modern NFL is cleaning up its act. It has changed the rules to make concussions less frequent. It's changed other rules to get players with head injuries out of games until they can pass concession-testing protocol.
But concussions will still occur, and some players will get enough concussions to get CTE.
But what if there were a cure? Even better, what if CTE could be prevented?
One company I know of is researching those very same questions. This firm is being advised by a retired NFL player with degrees from Harvard and Dartmouth.
This team aims to discover whether CTE can be cured or even prevented with cannabis.
The research is exciting – and promising. If this firm succeeds, it will do a tremendous amount of good.
And shareholders, of course, could clean up, too.