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Like baby birds with yawning beaks, college football fans clamor to be fed. So fasten the chin strap on your helmet — ignore the warning label on it (“No helmet system can protect you from serious brain and/or neck injuries including paralysis or death. To avoid these risks, do not engage in the sport of football.”) and enjoy the seasonal festival of physical carnage, institutional derangement and moral seaminess.

LSU offensive tackle Josh Williford, 22, will, however, leave his helmet off, having just retired rather than risk another concussion. A third concussion triples the risk of clinical depression for those with no prior symptoms, and autopsies performed on 334 deceased NFL players “found that they were three times more likely than the general population to suffer from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).” These figures are from a Wall Street Journal essay defending football from critics. These critics must admit that big-time college football, although a peculiar appendage of institutions of higher learning, is at least adding to our knowledge of brains by fueling studies of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the cumulative effect of repeated small “subconcussive” blows to the head.

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