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How to ruin your brain

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh. It’s the fourth quarter of a football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns – a 60-year old rivalry, renowned for close-fought, lavishly violent matches. This one has been particularly gruesome. Two Browns players have left the game after suffering concussions. Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ star quarterback, was carted off the field in the second quarter after having his left leg caught awkwardly beneath him in a tackle. It looked like a broken ankle. But, to everyone’s surprise, Roethlisberger returned to the game after half-time: leg bandaged, limping visibly, obviously in enormous pain. This level of toughness endears a player to the fans.

Now, with six minutes left in the game, the Browns have the ball. They are down 7-3, but have driven into Pittsburgh territory. Colt McCoy, Cleveland’s quarterback, drops back to pass, but pressure from a Pittsburgh defender forces him to run towards the left sideline. He tosses the ball to his running back – a short, easy completion – and an instant later James Harrison, the Steelers’ 260-pound linebacker, flattens McCoy with a vicious, crushing helmet-to-helmet hit that leaves McCoy writhing on the ground to the appreciative roar of 65,000 fans. Continue reading

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