Saturday, November 8, 2014

Can Football Survive Head Injury Revelations?

Hits like this have an immediate and a cumulative effect.
Michael Sokolove's piece in today's NYTimes (here) on the lawsuit that could send the NFL to the same margins of society that boxing now occupies is a gut-wrenching truth for those who have spent our lives following this sport in an almost religious sense.

Football's time may have passed us all. Teddy Roosevelt considered banning the game in 1905 because of deaths associated with a formation called the "flying wedge," among other things. His threats helped lead to the reshaping of the ball, and to the forward pass. Deaths declined, but the game remains a menace to those who play, intensifying in its brutality as the players become bigger, stronger and faster. It is common for a lineman to be nearly 350 pounds and 6-foot-6 now and for that mammoth of a man to be as fast as a running back was 20 years ago. Imagine being hit my a small train.

Sokolove asked this rhetorical question: "...what happens if [school districts] don’t follow the [new safety] protocols or don’t have certified athletic trainers on staff or coaches smart enough to deal with possible concussions while they are also deciding on the right third-down play? What’s more, insurers may in time deem the sport too risky. Health insurers might treat it as a costly risk factor like smoking or a bad driving record. As football becomes more and more regulated, many districts may reasonably conclude that it’s more than they can handle." That means they would disband their teams.

He says the NFL "has instituted rules changes to make its own games less violent and is funding and promulgating supposedly less dangerous ways to play at the youth level. But there is no assurance that any of it will make football any more healthful than low-tar cigarettes made smoking."

The fact is that football is too dangerous for the human body. Even the bodies of these almost superhuman men are beaten beyond recognition and their brains are damaged at a rate even boxing has not eclipsed.

Is football dead? No. Not yet, but Sokolove's comparison with the fate of tobacco in our country (40 percent of adults smoked just a few years ago; 18 percent and falling now) seems appropriate. It's just a matter of time.


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