Brain Injuries May Destroy Football
Concussions are a major worry for any parent with a kid playing football. While it’s great to see the kids out having a great time playing a great game, these day’s there are all those ugly statistics in the back of every parent’s head.
You know the ones, the statistics about how many concussions are suffered in an average season at the middle school, high school, and college level. The amount of long-term damage that can be done. The horrible examples of what brain trauma can do, the stories that have made all the headlines, run through every parent’s head: Aaron Hernandez, Junior Seau. The list is growing longer, and the consequences are becoming more widely known.
Before these issues came to the forefront, parents still worried about their children playing football, of course. There were strains and sprains to worry over, the possibility of broken bones, and the very rare but still worrisome risks of very serious injury.
But chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is the condition that affects these players, has changed the game forever, even if the game doesn’t realize it yet.
Already, there are fewer parents taking the risk of letting their children play football. If that trend continues, it’s likely that America’s best athletes will begin to show up in other sports, which will decrease the quality and entertainment of the NFL and the college game.
Further, it’s likely there will be increasingly more questions asked about how the game is run, particularly at the high school and college level. Are players being put back on the field after a hard hit? Is there a risk the player already has a concussion? These situations are more likely to lead to brain injury lawsuits than they were in the past. In the past, parents may have looked the other way if their child looked okay after the game. Now, parents are watching every play, every hit, and double checking the doctors and coaches have gotten the decisions right.
This second-guessing will likely be very good for the players of the game, and very bad for the game itself. While players from the earliest amateurs all the way up to professionals are likely to demand fewer risks be taken with their bodies and heads, which will lead to fewer injuries, chronic and temporary, that very demand will almost by necessity make the game less watchable.
Once the hits stop being so hard, the plays slow down to triple check a player, more and more tackles are outlawed, and more and more players pull out of potentially risky plays, the game will have to decline in quality.
Whether this is good or bad, and whether it means a death spiral for the game, it’s impossible to say at this point. What is certain, however, is that parents are going to demand the game move in that direction. And if mom and dad want it, the professional player is going to demand it too.