Football-Style Concussions Turned Henry VIII Into A Wife-Chopping Tyrant

The topic of brain injury in sports is a hotly debated issue. Is the reality that pro football players experience concussions to the effect of being in several major car crashes the reason they say "give a 110%" seven times during the same post-game interview? Yes, absolutely, and naysayers who claim this is a modern invention by our snowflake culture need only look at the dramatic shift in the intelligence of history's most famous athlete: His Royal Highness Henry VIII, King of England.

King Henry VIII is best remembered as the king who turned the game of fuck-marry-kill into a to-do list. But before his wife swapping and chopping days, Henry VIII was considered a kind, generous and clever ruler. This started to change in his thirties when Henry "became a comfort-eating paranoid recluse -- a 28 stone man-mountain," something historians previously believed was because of a big dose of syphilis, as he did enjoy his woman like his coffee: briefly and often.

Hans Holbein
Even Kilimanjaro has a lower death rate than climbing this man-mountain.
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But a recent study from neurologist Arash Salardini of the Yale Memory Clinic claims that Henry VIII's descent into mad despotism was, in fact, due to several NFL-style brain injuries he received during jousting. How is a modern team sport similar to a medieval man-on-a-horse-with-a-long-stick sport? In that, the helmets can't protect all that shit. As an avid tourney jouster, Henry VIII was constantly being concussed by lances splintering off his noggin'. In 1524, the king was smashed above the right eye when a lance went through his visor, leaving him with constant migraines. In 1536, he was knocked off his horse during jousting practice, depriving him of consciousness (and his brain of oxygen) for two long hours. He also suffered major brain trauma after he fell headfirst into a brook when he unsuccessfully tried to pole vault over it.

Claire Houck/Wikimedia Commons
A case of brain injury begetting more brain injury.
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These blows to the head made Henry VIII punch drunk, or its official term: it gave him a diffuse axonal injury where the brain's wires get knocked loose. Like many modern football players and boxers, this made him suffer from rage issues, impulsiveness, and amnesia. In 1536, Henry forgot his own son's burial two days after the fact. And, in 1546, after a heated conversation with wife #6, Catherine Parr, he had no memory of ordering soldiers to drag her away to the Tower of London. The repetitive brain injuries would also be responsible for hormonal issues and impotence. This might explain why he ballooned into a royal Michelin Man later in life, and why he went through wives like an executioner's ax through butter in his quest for male heirs. All in all, another reminder of why it's a bad idea to let the prom king star player also quarterback your entire country. 

For weird tangents and suspected brain injury, do follow Cedric on Twitter.

Top Image: Flickr / Nadine Doerle, Pixabay

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