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Checkdowns: Football, concussions and the future

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 27, 2011

it's hard to have anything besides a nuanced view regarding the subject of football, concussions and the future of the sport. Most hardcore fans want to preserve the status quo in almost every manner, while it's difficult to be comfortable with exposing your 15-year-old son to the possibility of repeatedly suffering serious concussions and potentially life-threatening injuries in high school athletics.

Instead of spending the time to formula my own thoughts, I'm going to check down to an article written by Ben McGrath in the New Yorker this week, titled: Does Football Have a Future? The N.F.L. and the concussion crisis. McGrath's lengthy work is worth the read. P-F-R friend Chris Brown has some thoughts on McGrath's piece, in his recent blog post about the future of football and the wave of brain issues:

I’ve written about this subject before, and I am still sure that the brain-injury/concussion problem remains the most serious threat to football, and it will not be resolved by tweets from Greg Aiello, the NFL’s spokesman. Yet — and this may sound harsh — I don’t really care about the risks to current NFL players. Like professional boxing, no one can, with a straight face, say that they don’t understand the risk of playing such a dangerous, high speed collision sport, and they are all compensated handsomely for it. (I have more sympathy for older NFL players who played before high salaries and before these risks were well understood.) Indeed, I think the NFL as spectator sport will continue to survive through more “Black and Blue Sundays” or even serious injuries like paralysis, potentially even a live-on-the-field death. Some quick cuts to show Roger Goodell solemnly addressing “the problem” with fines and rule changes will be enough to placate the masses and change the narrative on ESPN back to who will rally for the postseason.

But the more serious threat to football — and the one I care about more than whether a very narrow class of high-profile, high-risk, high-reward professionals are making a bad judgment by playing the game — is whether the evidence shows that amateur football can cause lasting, long-term brain damage. The big stories will come out of the NFL and, to a lesser extent, major college football, but if in ten years it can be demonstrated that four years of high school football significantly increases the risk of brain injuries and long-term disorders, then football really will have no future.

McGrath's piece is doubly recommended because he lionizes the work of Alan Schwarz, who has viligantly researched the connection between brain trauma and football in the face of harsh criticism from the football community.

None of these issues have easy answers but all are worth keeping in the forefront of our football minds.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 at 1:12 pm and is filed under Checkdowns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.