BOSTON (AP) Researchers have diagnosed chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a Major League Soccer player for the first time, saying on Tuesday that defender Scott Vermillion has the degenerative brain disease.
The Boston University CTE Center said Vermillion, who died of an accidental drug overdose in December 2020 at the age of 44, had the disease. Although it is impossible to link an individual case to a cause, CTE has been linked to repeated blows to the head.
CTE has been found in over 100 former NFL players as well as semi-pro and high school football players. Vermillion, who played for the Kansas City Wizards, Colorado Rapids and DC United, is the first in MLS.
“Mr. Vermillion showed us that football players are at risk for CTE,” said Dr. Ann McKee, director of the BU CTE Center. compassionate care and appropriate medical support.”
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Vermillion started playing football at the age of 5 and continued for 22 years, culminating in four MLS seasons. He also played for the United States at the Under-17 World Championship in 1993 and made a few appearances for the Under-20 team in 1996.
After retiring in 2001 with an ankle injury, according to his family, he became depressed and had problems with impulse control and aggression. Eventually, he suffered from memory loss and developed a substance abuse problem.
All have been associated with CTE, which has been linked to concussions or subconcussive blows in athletes, veterans and others who experience repeated head injuries.
“This disease destroys families, and not just football families,” said Vermillion’s father, Dave Vermillion. “We hope this will be a wake-up call for the football community to support former players and give them the help they need, so that some good can come out of this tragedy.”
The MLS Players Association called on the league to break with the sport’s international governing bodies and pass a rule expanding substitutions to allow players with concussions.
“We must not sit idly by and wait for them to do the right thing. MLS should unilaterally enact a full concussion substitution rule immediately,” the union said in a statement. “Current substitution rules do not allow enough time for medical professionals to properly diagnose potential concussions without putting a team at a substantial competitive disadvantage.”
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MLS chief medical officer Margot Putukian said the league has “comprehensive policies to educate players, coaches, officials and medical staff on the importance of identifying head injuries, early warning and treatment”.
“MLS is a leader in the sport, championing and piloting FIFA’s concussion replacement program, implementing a medical screening program to identify potential head injuries and removing any player suspected of a concussion from play. head injury for evaluation and, if necessary, treatment,” Putukian said. “There is always more progress to be made, and MLS is firmly committed to this important work.”
The Concussion Legacy Foundation has called for rules that would limit football tackles and headers in football to children over the age of 14. CLF co-founder Chris Nowinski said dementia was already linked to repetitive headaches among professional football players in Britain.
“It’s time for the global football community to have a real conversation about the header, especially in the youth game,” Nowinski said. “We must urgently investigate the extent of this crisis in amateur football and immediately put in place reforms to prevent CTE in the next generation.”