Football is by far and away the most popular sport in the United States. However, it has in recent years sparked a dialogue that has been pushed to the forefront by media and films such as Concussion. These concerns are of the brain damage football has been proven to cause to its players known as CTE; or Chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Football has been shown to do permanent damage to its players at the high school, college, and national levels and there is a great social responsibility on the players, coaches and general public to prevent the perpetuation of the damage the game causes in its current state.
To begin, what is CTE? Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is, according to concussionfoundation.org, found in people with repetitive brain trauma and over time progresses to slowly destroy brain cells. CTE is not caused by large impacts or single concussions necessarily but can be caused by the often insignificant hits in a normal football game. As these hits pile from dozens to hundreds to thousands over an athlete’s career, the brain’s impact with the skull continues as well. After the discover of CTE, the NFL fought for years to cover up the mounting evidence and continues to argue about football’s role in brain damage, but the facts are in a study conducted by Boston University and the Boston VA discovered that 110 of 111 former NFL players had CTE. The numbers were slightly lower when college players were included in the count (177 of 202 had CTE.) This connection is well-known by the NFL’s leadership, but instead of meaningful change they see it as better to pay the families after the death of their loved one. The league is even referred to by some as The League of Denial. According to qz.com, one innovation the NFL has recently shown off has been the Zero1 helmet, but this is believed if anything that it will encourage players to use their helmets more defensively which will only lead to more impacts. Helmets at the end of the day can not protect against impacts and advertising equipment as such is hugely irresponsible on everyone involved. There is a social responsibility on the league to fix the issues in the game, but currently not enough social pressure for actual change. Aside from the league, famous players such as Troy Aikman have been quoted as saying: “If I had a 10-year-old boy, I don’t know that I’d be real inclined to encourage him to go play football, in light of what we are learning from head injury. I’m concerned right now overall with the long-term viability of our sport.” Former Steelers Quarterback Terry Bradshaw had to say: “If I had a son today, and I would say this to all our audience and our viewers out there, I would not let him play football.” This shows that the players themselves alongside much of the public. But, when push comes to shove, the push for reform in football is not currently big enough for changes to happen in the game and contribute to increased safety.
The NFL is seen as the premier league in the United States, so it’s fair to say act in a way that greatly influences college and high school football. Currently, there aren’t any obvious variants in how to game works mechanically across leagues, and historically the smaller leagues have followed the NFL’s changes over time. It’s safe to say that until then, the over one million high school football players in America and thousands at the college and national levels will suffer decades after they put down the helmet because of a refusal to act by the powers that be in competitive football. To summarize, CTE is affecting thousands of former football players while little to nothing is being done to protect the players with some even not permitting the game for their own children because of serious safety concerns they and others have. Us as an American people have a social responsibility to protect the over one million Americans that are high school players or higher. Hopefully the future can be safer while retaining the joy millions find in the sport we all know and love.
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