TODAY | September 06, 2012
>> alarming new study is out that says nfl players are dying at a much higher risk of alzheimer 's and other brain diseases . here's nancy snyderman .
>> reporter: america's game kicked off last night. a study published online this month shows nfl players have a significantly higher risk of dying of of the degenerative brains brain diseases alzheimer 's and als, commonly known as lou gehrig 's disease.
>> the common theme is repettive head injuries . by the time you're at the national football league , they've added up to many, many thousands if not tens of thousands of blows.
>> reporter: professional football has long been a violent game. in recent years the nfl has taken aggressive measures to protect players from some of of the more serious head injuries and upped the ante to those who break the rules. wednesday on "today," roger goodell announced the league's partnership with the u.s. army and nih to study the effects of traumatic brain injuries .
>> we're going to be funding $30 million to fund new research that will hopefully help and accelerate the understanding of brain injuries .
>> reporter: but for some players the research comes too late. steve gleason , formerly of the saints, has als, as does ex-nfler kevin turner . once forces on the field, they're struggling to make it through the simple tasks of daily living. this doctor wants to stop the disease.
>> they have coaches that are least experienced, they almost never have any medical personnel on the sideline.
>> reporter: as kids across america suit up to play like their nfl heros, parents have to consider the implications of this recent study. the price of playing today could man a tragic struggle tomorrow. for "today," dr. nancy snyderman , nbc news, new york.
>> mike is a radio host and columnist for the new york daily news. good to see you. this is a tough study. football players almost four times more likely to die than the general public from als or alzheimer 's. what's the impact on the sport sp.
>> it's profound. this is me is the single greatest health crisis in sports. it's not going to go away. if you were buying a car and somebody said this is a great car but if you buy it you're four times more likely to die, are you going to buy that car?
>> but you listen to the commissioner. he was here announcing a $30 million grant for the studying of brain injuries . first of all, was he trying to get out ahead of bad news with good news? and, secondly, how do you change the game itself to prevent this in the future?
>> you can build space age helmets. they talk about all the improvements at the helmet companies, it's still going to be a violent sport. the tipping point is going to be when parents start saying i am not allowing my child to play this game anymore.
>> does a study like this in your opinion take a lot of parents and push them over that line?
>> oh, i think without a question. there's a great loon that arthur ashe once had about john mcenromcenro mcenroe's tennis game. he said "a nick here, a nick there and pretty soon you're bleeding to death." you're going to suffer over time .
>> you can make the helmets space age but the fact of the matter is the culture of the sport is about dominating and intimidating your opponent if i physically. that has to change?
>> how many hits where the guy still leads with his head? we've had three suicides of ex-football players. concussion sounds like a benign expression. eight brain wound. you get practically one a game now in the national football league .
>> 190 last year for 320 games played .
>> any rational person looks at boxing and says why does this sport even exist? we're not there obviously. adam schefter from espn said there's one thing that can kill the golden goose in the national football league and it's what we're talking about.
>> always good to get your perspective. thank you very much.