Neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee, a Green Bay Packers fan, on her autopsies of former NFL players and research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy:

Over the last four years, McKee has become the most visible member of a cohort of research scientists and family members — wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of the dead, dying, and demented — who have forced the issue of chronic brain trauma into the forefront of American consciousness. The process has engendered enormous publicity as well as criticism and jealousy in the scientific community, which is every bit as competitive as the NFL. Her work has brought ‘a great deal of acclaim, exposure, and recognition,’ says neurosurgeon Robert Cantu, clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University and co-director of CSTE. ‘But at the same time it’s brought a great deal of pressure. Not everybody greets her findings with the same degree of enthusiasm.’

War-painted denizens of the upper deck may view her as The Woman Trying To Destroy Football. In fact, she is The Woman Trying To Save Football From Itself. The process has engendered a particular intimacy with those who entrust their loved ones to her posthumous care. Virginia Grimsley, whose husband, John, was the first NFL player diagnosed by McKee, says, ‘He’s in good hands with her. They’re all in good hands with her.

‘If Joe Six-Pack was as educated as the wives that have gone through this and as Dr. McKee, Joe Six-Pack would sit down, shut up, and continue to drink his six-pack,’ Grimsley says. ‘She’s not trying to destroy football.’

McKee says: ‘I’m just trying to tell football what I see.’

“The Woman Who Would Save Football.” — Jane Leavy, Grantland

More Leavy