Matt HealeyTuesday,29 January 2013

The Snap:

The Super Bowl is this Sunday. In addition to the dedicated fans who celebrated their team’s AFC championship win by chugging red wine, a lot of non-football fans will be watching “the game.” I put this in quotes because the last Super Bowl party that I went to, approximately 10+ years ago, involved a lot of people ignoring the actual football and talking loudly so that I could not pay attention to what was going on, and then yelling at me since I had the nerve to walk in front of the TV to get a beer during the commercials. But I digress. The point is that generally there are a lot of non-fans watching. People who are not familiar with some of the bigger issues facing the NFL.

The Download:

One of the big issues that is facing the NFL right now is player safety. The situation is significant enough that President Obama commented on the problem. The medical information about the long term effects of concussions is staggering. A recent study showed that repeated hits to the head, a very common occurrence in the NFL, leads to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E. This is a degenerative brain disease that leads to memory loss, dementia, and depression. Further, the recent autopsy of Junior Seau, who was a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, showed the effects of repeated hits to the head — although he had never been diagnosed with a concussion. While the NFL has begun to address the problems, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

Medically, addressing this is a no-brainer. The problem is that maintaining an exciting game that generates the revenue the NFL does, but does not needlessly endanger the participants, is not easy. Football is a violent game. Technology has enhanced training and nutrition, which has resulted in bigger and stronger players who can hit harder. The problem is further amplified by the players who will do anything to make it to the NFL and stay in the game. I understand that it is hard to feel bad for grown men who choose to play the game and are paid handsomely for it. But what about the college players who are taking the same type of hits, many of whom never make it to pros? Players whose schools profit nicely from their contributions? What about high school players who likely do not have access to the same quality of medical treatment to diagnose brain injuries? The NFL needs to take a leadership position and start to address these concerns at all levels of the game, before parents start to limit their childrens’ participation in youth football, thus reducing the supply of future labor.

Hat Tips:

Obama, NYT on concussions, Concussions, Junior Seau, Fencing response, Youth Football, ESPNImage Credit: Flickr

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