Just How Dangerous Is Tackle Football?

I saw a fascinating piece on Frontline this weekend called League of Denial:The NFL’s Concussion CrisisThe piece covers brain injuries in the NFL and what appears to be a purposeful effort by the NFL to dismiss alarming evidence that football players are sustaining long term injuries from hard hits and concussions.  I must say, it is a compelling exposé.  It paints an unsavory view of what folks who are making billions off the sport are willing to do to ensure the money train doesn’t stop.

I don’t like the glorification of money over people’s well-being, but I realize that it happens all too often.  I think that some folks may think that professional football players knowingly assume the risk and are paid handsomely for it, so they have no room to complain.  But do they really knowingly assume the risk?  Do they comprehend that their life may end early or that the quality of their life could be dramatically reduced?  Do they get a disclaimer that explains the real risk and sign off on it?  I don’t think they do.

What about college players and high school players – do they knowingly assume the risk? And what of the pee wee leagues that start kids in their grade school years?  Do parents really comprehend the risk of brain damage? I can tell you that after watching the Frontline piece I called my daughter Sarah and told her that my grandson Lennon should never be allowed to play football.  Brains are not meant to banged about like that – particularly young brains.

It is scary to watch what the scientists already know and the level of subterfuge that the NFL has engaged in to discredit what the brains of former football players has shown.  The brains examined clearly showed that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) a degenerative brain disorder appears to have a causal link to contact sports such as football.

I urge parents who either already have a child in a contact sport such as football or those who are considering allowing their child to play football to watch this piece (you can see it online here).  I warn you, this piece may change the way you view football.  It also may change the way you view the NFL.  It eerily reminded me of the tobacco industry’s history of coverup and disregard for human life.  At least tobacco products now have clear risk warnings.  Perhaps it is time for the sport of football to carry such warnings.  Allow football players to knowingly assume the risk they take in the sport while they still have the brain capacity to do so.

Day one thousand one hundred and ninety-eight of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

3 Responses

  1. Miki

    I happened upon that show by accident as I was scrolling through the channels the other day. It was quite enlightening as to what does happen to the brain AND, as you said, what the league does and doesn’t do about it. Money rules the world!

  2. tim haering

    I gave up playing football in 8th Grade because I was too small and not fast enough to compensate. I gave up watching football for other reasons decades later. A bunch of greedy cheaters. Competition may build character, but it also breeds cheaters. And our enduring champions may simply be cheaters who never got caught. Too bad about the brain damage, we’re not a very wise species to start with, despite the Linnean self-titling.

  3. I really wouldn’t expect someone who teaches at a University to turn to expose type of reporting for the truth. There is a great tendency for them to want to tell their story in a way that isn’t really the whole story. Hours of video are spliced in such a way as to make the most entertaining/compelling story.

    That said, is there a problem, certainly. Has there been denial and coverup? Very likely. The NFL is certainly making changes, but notice how defense is fined and penalized for using the head as the point of contact, but I have yet to see a running back or receiver who clearly do the same get a flag or a fine.

    Have you watched a similar expose of how heading the ball in soccer does the same thing? Especially among girls who tend not to have the head mass and neck strength to hit the ball with their head without injury.

    Have you watched a similar expose of how the cheerleaders who are fliers have a higher rate of injury and more severe injuries, including head injuries, than football players? North Dakota outlawed lifts for a few years after a cheerleader died at NDSU. Now, thanks to seeing cheerleader competitions on ESPN, the lifts are back and more dangerous than before. Never seen a cheerleader with a helmet, have you?

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