Every time Antonio Brown pulls another stunt with his erratic (and frankly dangerous) behavior, media and fans come out of the woodwork trying to explain what’s going on and what should be done about it. Everyone has an opinion about it.
Well, here’s mine.
While Twitter is agog and at-the-ready with DSM-V diagnoses and pleas for someone to help him, only a few have pondered the real possibility that some of Mr. Brown’s behavior might be attributable to CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
There is no question Antonio Brown needs help. But what kind of help? Are we just going assume his bad boy behavior is caused by being an overindulged athlete most of his adult life? Or a host of possible other mental health diagnoses?
Many possibilities do exist to explain why Mr. Brown has essentially gone off the rails and is lashing out at the people who love him the most and the world at large. He finds himself out of a job largely because he won’t face the guy in the mirror and reach out for help.
During the early 1990s I did a semester internship as a graduate student working with people who experienced traumatic brain injuries. It was one of the more powerful clinical experiences I ever had in terms of understanding the human condition when there has been a physical assault on the brain in one form or another.
Furthermore, throughout my career as a psychotherapist I worked periodically with individuals who experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI), especially when their behavior became a problem in need of a treatment plan, so I’ve had some experience with how behavior changes when the brain is damaged. It’s challenging work.
Whether it’s a result of cancer in the brain, Alzheimer’s, car accidents, war, whatever… the person they were before trauma may bear little resemblance to who they become trying to function over a lifespan with a damaged brain.
While we are closer to being able to diagnose CTE in living persons, it remains a diagnosis only able to be made after a person dies. Hopefully that will change soon because it’s becoming increasingly evident from data that repetitive blows to the head may be a precipitating factor in the development of CTE in athletes from all sports.
Why do I think this may be at the root of some of Antonio Brown’s erratic behavior?
Look no further than the trajectory of Aaron Hernandez’s behavior before he took his life in a jail cell after being convicted of murder. There was a pattern of antisocial behavior not unlike what we are seeing from Antonio Brown these days.
Does this mean Antonio Brown could end up a murderer? Not necessarily. However, one thing is certain… if the right kind of support and intervention isn’t made soon, the behavior will continue until it ends in tragedy one way or another.
The most likely predictor of where things might go if Antonio Brown does have CTE and refuses to help himself would likely depend on his premorbid personality. In other words, the behavior patterns that have existed in one form or another prior to physical trauma may be exacerbated by CTE.
While a complete 180 degree turn in personality can certainly be attributed to TBI, the more common observation is that the seeds of erratic behavior may have been there from the start. There is usually at least some sort of connection between pre-CTE personality and post-CTE behavior but there’s not been enough evidenced based data yet to determine the validity of the correlation.
No one I know could address what life is like for a person without a formal diagnosis of CTE (but like Antonio Brown has many of the symptoms) better than our dear friend Janine Talley. What Janine and their daughters face every single day supporting Darryl is nothing short of daunting because this IS a diagnosis with profound effects on caregivers and immediate family.
Just read this to see what life is like for the Talley family these days. People who live with these challenges on a daily basis are probably better at connecting the CTE ‘dots’ than the rest of us who don’t live with the ravages of this disease. All I know is that we have a crisis on our hands that we better start directing resources and supportive services for those affected.
Sadly, if Antonio Brown lacks the right kind of support (professional and family) his behavior is likely to only get worse. Worse tragedy than his current situation is almost inevitable at some point.
More than anything, I wish Antonio would reach out to a representative of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA)… someone like Lorenzo Alexander who is wise enough to guide and support Antonio could be of enormous assistance.
The bottom line is Antonio Brown has a date with tragedy if his behavior continues on a downward spiral. It’s the elephant in the room no one is talking about because his bad-boy behavior titillates us instead. Regardless of etiology, I hope for Antonio’s sake there’s something inside of himself that will allow him to reach out before it’s too late.
Editor’s babble: Thanks for reading my blabber. Holla at me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.