Football heading for trouble

Looking to stop the flow of tears falling into area beers, NECN’s Broadside host Sue O’Connell offered this on-the-bright-side tweet on Sunday night: “Hey #PatriotsNation, the good news is your fav players will now have a slightly lower chance of brain injury resulting in CTE. #concussion”

Her timing couldn’t have been better, as today brings yet another story underlining the inconvenient truth that America’s multibillion-dollar love affair with football is also turning the brains of some of its combatants to jelly.

The New York Times reports that an autopsy has confirmed that former New York Giants safety Tyler Sash, who died last year at age 27 from what was termed an accidental overdose of pain medication, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The degenerative brain disease is caused by repeated head trauma and has become the elephant in the room for the NFL. The league reached a $1 billion-plus settlement to compensate players for concussion-related ailments, though the deal is being appealed by critics who say it doesn’t go far enough.

Scores of players have been found to have suffered from CTE in post-mortem exams carried out by researchers at Boston University, which has become the center of research on the issue. Dr. Ann McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at BU School of Medicine, said Sash’s brain showed about the same level of the disease as that of former Patriots player Junior Seau, who committed suicide three years ago at age 43.

Sash, who suffered at least five concussions playing football, had exhibited memory loss, confusion, and bouts of anger over the two years he drifted aimlessly after being cut by the Giants, his family said. McKee told the Times the lesions found on his brain help explain “his inattention, his short fuse, and his lack of focus.”

While fans may be preoccupied with whether the Pats can put things together for next year, and Bill Belichick says he’s already focused on doing his job so that happens, the specter of what’s going on inside players’ heads isn’t going away.

It’s what led one-time college fullback Noah Van Niel, now an Episcopal priest, to pen a Globe op-ed in December that began: “I have a confession: I can’t watch football anymore. Because instead of joy and excitement, I feel like I’m watching a slow-motion execution.”

As Van Niel suggests, while football can be incredibly exciting to watch, Romans once felt much the same about the games offered at the Colosseum.

–MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

The state’s top budget official pegs the shortfall for the 2017 fiscal year at $635 million as Gov. Charlie Baker prepares to unveil his spending plan this afternoon. (Boston Globe)

A criminal justice reform bill that would end the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for convicted drug offenders hits a snag on Beacon Hill. (CommonWealth)

The State Retirement Board sent out errant tax forms to 50,000 retirees that showed pension payments substantially higher than what they received, which could cause many to pay higher taxes if they already filed their forms. (The Enterprise)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial says the proposed ban on cellphone use while driving is a sledgehammer approach to a problem that can be dealt with through better enforcement of the existing ban on texting while driving. Hands-free driving doesn’t mean risk-free driving. (The Sun)

The Common Core ballot question may be heading to court. (Salem News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

US Rep. Steve Lynch wants to see a new bridge built to replace the Northern Avenue span over Boston’s Fort Point Channel. (Boston Globe)

A Fall River man who was arrested for using his cellphone to shoot video from his front porch of a police officer during a traffic detail has settled his lawsuit with the city for $72,500. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

One man was killed and the leader of a right-wing militia occupation on federal lands in Oregon and seven followers were arrested during a traffic stop and confrontation with state police and the FBI. But a number of armed supporters remained on the land and refused pleas by local residents and officials to leave. (New York Times)

The Obama administration is going to help Gloucester brand its locally produced seafood. The community was one of 27 selected nationwide for the program. It was the only municipality in the Northeast. (Gloucester Times)

ELECTIONS

Donald Trump is taking his ball and going home, refusing to participate in the final GOP debate on Fox News after the network rejected his demand to remove Megyn Kelly as moderator because he claims she is biased against him. (New York Times) Ted Cruz challenges Trump to a one-on-one debate prior to the Iowa caucuses. (Time)

Cruz’s father is unleashing some fire and brimstone on his son’s behalf to conservative evangelical voters in Iowa. (Boston Globe)

The Boston Herald says fundraising records suggest Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson may be eyeing a challenge to Mayor Marty Walsh — though Jackson’s campaign account holds only $2,275.

The runner-up in the race for a seat on the Quincy City Council is filing a suit asking a judge to award him the seat rather than go through a special election in the wake of the death of Councilor Brian McNamee, who died before being sworn in. (Patriot Ledger)

Two Democratic state reps — William Pignatelli of Lenox and Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield — say they are giving strong consideration to running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Downing. (MassLive)

Jane <3 Jeb! (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Vice President Joe Biden lays out five “guideposts” to help make sure the digital revolution doesn’t further hollow out the middle class. (Boston Globe)

There is discontent with the state and city incentive package being given to General Electric, but it’s unlikely to derail the deal, reports the Herald.

The Globe reports that Staples is laying off hundreds of workers, but the company won’t confirm that.

Apple, with weakening demand for new iPhones, is forecasting its first sales decrease in years. (Time)

EDUCATION

The state education board votes 6-4 to close the Dorchester Collegiate Academy charter school and, as expected, place the Southbridge school system into receivership. (State House News)

The Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, which is housed in and partners with the Codman Square Health Center, is serving as the model for a new tuition-free private school for low-income students in East Palo Alto, California, funded by pediatrician Priscilla Chan, who did some of her training at the Dorchester health center, and her husband, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Framingham State University and Massachusetts Bay Community College are teaming up to offer $28,000 bachelor’s degrees, far less than what it would normally cost. (Metrowest Daily News)

A Herald editorial applauds a vow by Boston city and school leaders to address charges of racial hostility and insensitivity at Boston Latin School.

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The state is not meeting the requirements of two recent pieces of reform legislation that called for greater transparency for consumers on the costs of health care services. (Boston Globe)

Attorney General Maura Healey wants Gilead to lower the prices on its two costly treatments for hepatitis C. (Boston Globe)

A federally-appointed panel has recommended screening of women for depression during pregnancy and after delivery. (New York Times) CommonWealth spotlighted efforts to do the same in Massachusetts in this feature story last spring.

Pembroke Hospital has disciplined and retrained staff in the wake of a scathing state report following the death of a patient at the mental health facility. (Patriot Ledger)

TRANSPORTATION 

Lawmakers and drivers from Metrowest urged state transportation officials to eye tolls on other roads around the state to spread the burden to repair the Mass Pike after bonds are paid off in 2017. (Metrowest Daily News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Ian Bowles, the former secretary of energy and environmental affairs under Deval Patrick, says Gov. Charlie Baker is on the right track with his energy plans, even his call for additional natural gas pipeline infrastructure. (CommonWealth)

Federal regulators are trying to settle a dispute after closing off the Georges Bank fishing grounds to herring fishermen because they exceeded their “bycatch” limit of haddock. The herring draggers want to increase their limit but haddock fishermen oppose any hike because of the impact on their livelihood. (Associated Press)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Mashpee lawyer has had his license suspended after the Supreme Judicial Court found he falsely represented a number of immigrant clients. (Cape Cod Times)

A judge chastised state lawyers for their efforts to block release of information to lawyers for families alleging their children were abused at a child care center based at Bridgewater State University. (Boston Herald)

ARTS/CULTURE 

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts acquires a Frida Kahlo painting. (WBUR)