It’s not always about tau proteins

Colby Cosh on the slow and public decline of Paul Gascoigne

by Colby Cosh

In this Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011 file photo, Paul Gascoigne, is seen in the stands ahead of the English Premier League soccer match. (Scott Heppell, AP photo)

Paul Gascoigne, probably the most beloved English footballer now alive whose name is not found on the roster of the 1966 World Cup side, is in a bad way, according to the UK newspapers. “Gazza” made a horrifying appearance at a hundred-quid charity dinner last weekend, bursting into tears repeatedly after being helped onto the dais and eventually shouting obscenities at the audience. Celebrity friends have since bundled him off to a rehab centre in Arizona, where it is hoped he will tie the proverbial knot at the end of his rope. Unfortunately, it seems the first thing he did when he disembarked the plane was to look for a drink.

Broke, estranged from his family, and visibly ill, Gascoigne appears to be enacting a slow public suicide with resemblances to the fate of Northern Ireland great George Best. But where Best remained happy-go-lucky well into his second liver, Gascoigne gives an impression of constant struggle. He seems to want to get well and has spent long periods sober.

It is a reminder, as contact sports such as football and hockey come under greater scientific and ethical scrutiny, that it can be hard to separate the sinister neurological effects of chronic trauma from the purely psychological effects of having a sporting career come to an end. If Gazza had been a linebacker in American football, people would make bleak jokes about how blows to the head were responsible for his dismal state. Since his game was soccer, it’s hard to assign his condition to anything but the horrors of being philosophically unprepared, or just innately unsuited, for the difficult role of ex-athlete.

It’s not always about tau proteins

  1. The Guardian article says he has also been diagnosed as bipolar.

  2. Also doesn’t help when nearby wags keep trying to give him yellow cards for exaggeration (too soon?)

  3. Agreed! I think the polar opposite of Gazza (really, NO pun intended) would be R.A. Dickey- he seems like the rare breed amongst pro athletes: a truly well-rounded human being.

  4. I think we will hear similar stories about Mario Balotelli in twenty years – he’s mad as a hatter as well.

  5. “If Gazza had been a linebacker in American football, people would make bleak jokes about how blows to the head were responsible for his dismal state. Since his game was soccer, it’s hard to assign his condition to anything but the horrors of being philosophically unprepared, or just innately unsuited, for the difficult role of ex-athlete.”

    Or, maybe heading the soccer ball isn’t very good for your brain either…

  6. I’m not even interested in reading this trash from you Mr. Cash. Tau Proteins? Who would read articles to learn about things they don’t already know??

  7. Oh, there are a number of things to assign his condition to, probably including a genetic predisposition for addiction which may or may not have been exacerbated by epigenetic effects. Chronic childhood abuse or neglect, for example, can alter gene expression in ways that change the development of the brain’s reward circuitry, leading to greater incidence of addiction among adults who were thus exposed as children. This phenomenon is widespread and well documented. So, maybe not tau proteins, but very probably amino acids.

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