NFL Concussion Report Threatens Future Of Football
Football Linked To Permanent Brain Damage
The most bone-crunching hits in the NFL have long been blamed as the culprit which triggers long-term brain injury. As such, the league’s taken steps to reduce dangerous hits to defenseless players, part of a plan to reduce the number of concussions in the game.
Further protections have been installed to prevent players from making their head injuries worse. Protocols now include concussion spotters who directly contact teams when a player shows any signs of the injury. Players have become far more likely to self-report, making it easier for team physicians and coaches to take the appropriate action. There’s no doubt that NFL players benefit from greater concussion awareness, and lower rates of this injury type.
Unfortunately, the type of play that likely causes CTE also happens to be the most common. The vast majority of NFL plays begin with linemen crashing into each other, often knocking helmets in the process. Over the span of a football career, players absorb these lesser hits thousands of times regardless of position. This physical punishment starts at the high school level, sometimes younger.
A football player could avoid concussions throughout his career, and still develop CTE because of a lifetime of absorbing smaller collisions which form the basis of football – a sport defined by tackling and physically punishing your opponent. The concussion study showed that 21% of high school football players had CTE and 64% of semi-pro players exhibited the disease. Nine out of ten college football players had the disease, contradicting the concept of student-athletes in the NCAA. Instead of growing the mind, college football players destroy them on behalf of their school.
NFL Needs To Step Up
So far, the NFL has been less than impressive in promoting player safety. U.S. congress reports that the league attempted to undermine research after promising millions towards the effort. The NFL responded by leaving the project without paying $16 million of the pledge as promised.
A lawsuit involving more than 4,500 players has been winding down after years of bitter litigation, resulting in an award that approaches the billion-dollar mark. Other players have attempted to sue to NFL and individual teams because of misinformation they were given about head injuries.
On their part, more players have been choosing health over a long NFL career lately. Chris Boreland retired at the age of 24 after finishing among the lead leaders in tackles. John Urschel picked a career as an MIT math PhD instead of continuing with the Baltimore Ravens after three years – enough time to unlock his pension. The New York Giants watched rookie Jadar Johnson retire before the 2017 season, along with Owa Odighizuwa, who was entering his third year healthy.
These types of retirements were unheard of prior to revelations of CTE in football. As knowledge of this problem grows, more athletes will turn away from America’s favorite spectator sport.
Solutions Remain Uncertain
NFL football’s a contact sport. Removing the element of physicality and danger changes the game fundamentally – it’s no longer football. From this perspective, it’s difficult to fix the problem of CTE by removing the threat of contact. At best, the effects of football can be mitigated. The CFL recently announced the end of contact practices while lengthening the schedule to reduce injury.
Medical science rushes to discover a concussion pill to reverse the effects of brain trauma. A medicinal cure to concussions remain a distant reality, but progress shows that lab mice respond to drug therapy designed to heal brain cells damaged through concussive force. If the NFL doesn’t address brain injury and player safety, the health of thousands of players will continue to suffer.
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