Sankar Chatterjee

Posted on January 8, 2018

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A Nation’s Moral Dilemma

Dr. Mark Scott, a leading neurosurgeon in a renowned medical school was catching up with his e-mails from past several hours.  His surgery team was involved in a lengthy brain surgery to save the life of a severely brain-injured young athlete.  One of the e-mails caught his sudden attention.  It was from his undergraduate alma mater, announcing the untimely death (via suicide) of a student football player. He was a member of the offensive linemen who guarded and protected the quarterback from the opponents, thus taking punishing hits especially on their heads.  The player’s family members and classmates all remembered his “happy-go-lucky” personality.  None recalled that he displayed any kind of sadness or depression before taking such a drastic action.

Over past few years, Dr. Scott had treated several middle-aged professional ex-football players who were succumbing to sudden dementia, a few of them even committing suicide.  While carrying out autopsy on their brains, he came across with deposited insoluble plaques, similar in nature to the plaques seen in the autopsied-brains of the elder deceased Alzheimer patients.

Dr. Scott wasted no time.  As a distinguished neurologist, he requested to examine the still-preserved brain of the deceased college football player.  And that’s when, his fear came true.  The young player’s brain carried the telltale sign of the plaques seen in his previous patients.  He decided to report his finding to the scientific world.  He proposed that the heavy hits to their heads the football players absorb throughout their careers somehow might be causing these plaques to be formed. He further theorized that their later-life neurological problems might be emanating from the production and subsequent detrimental action of these plaques.  However he couldn’t decipher the operative biological mechanism.  The scientific world took notice terming this new condition as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The sport of football has been a billion-dollar industry in the country.  Thus, the operatives of this billionaires-entertainment complex remained skeptical.  However, Dr. Scott began collaborating with fellow scientists, collecting more data. The team reported that that out of autopsied brains of 111 deceased ex-professional football player, 110 displayed plaques of CTE.

In the meantime, the football world was rocked by the conviction of a talented young football player from a league-champion team in a murder case.  While appealing the verdict from prison, he would suddenly commit suicide.  Subsequent autopsy would reveal that his deceased brain had been bathed in CTE-plaques, the extent of which was previously unseen at such a younger age.  While the researches have been rushing to understand in details and find a cure for the phenomenon, the country’s legal profession has begun debating the issue of whether CTE could have been blamed for the criminal behavior of the deceased young player.  However, the ethical and moral issues remain unresolved.  Can a society afford to engage in encouraging its future generations to take part in a sport that might one day make them vulnerable to a degenerative mental condition to the point of taking their own lives?

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Sankar Chatterjee possesses the passion for traveling worldwide to immerse himself in new cultures and customs to discover the forgotten history of the societies while attempting to find the common thread that connects the humanity as a whole for its continuity. His most recent (2016 – 17) essays appeared in The Write Launch, The Vignette Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Missing Slate, Scarlet Leaf Review, The Drabble, Funny in Five Hundred, Friday Flash Fiction, Ad Hoc Fiction, Subtle Fiction, Quail Bell Magazine, Travelmag – The Independent Spirit, Three Drops from a Cauldron, DEFY! Anthology (Robocup Press).

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