Sports Illustrated ran an interesting article Wednesday morning. And perhaps Artie Burns’ response was most interesting and frankly, pretty scary. SI asked several current NFL players that if a test existed to test players for CTE, a chronic and degenerative brain disease that’s led to the death of many players, if they would take it.
Burns said he didn’t need the test. He believes he already has the disease. Here’s his full response.
“I definitely know I have it. I’m going to [test positive for] CTE. I don’t need a test. Is it going to tell me how much I have? We play a physical sport, man. Humans are not made to run into each other.”
To be clear, there is no current test for CTE in a living player (they can be tested after their death). So there’s no way Burns can know with 100% confidence if he has it or not. But it seems like Burns is implying he has some symptoms that would indicate he’s dealing with the early stages of the disease. Either that or he’s offering a blanket statement that all players suffer from it because of the nature of the game. I don’t know if that answer is any more comforting.
Burns has never been formally listed with a concussion in his NFL career and I can’t find any record of him suffering one in college. That, of course, doesn’t mean he’s never suffered a head injury.
Though he’s young, we’ve seen young players, most famously Chris Borland, walk away from the game at an early age to avoid the disease’s long-term effects. Steelers’ fans know the history of the disease well. Several have suffered from it, including Mike Webster. If you know his story, you know how tragic the final years of his life were.
Other responses in the interview varied. Some players, like Lions’ linebacker Tahir Whitehead, said they would take such a test, while others, like Seahawks’ defensive end Dion Jordan, replied they wouldn’t. The answers were even more mixed when asked if the league should mandate such a test before entering the NFL.
While there is no test that exists today, given the advancement in the medical field, there could very well be one within the next five to ten years. That could be a game changer in the NFL.