Football is undoubtedly a violent sport. The game is fueled on aggressiveness, physicality and shear force. In many cases, it encourages and warrants hitting players so hard, that they don’t want to get up. In turn, the game comes with many types of injuries. Bones, ligaments, and muscles are all routinely hurt over the course of an NFL year, but the most serious and controversial injuries are to the head.
It is coming out that more and more retired NfL players have CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is a disease often found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma as well as concussive hits to the head. Of 91 NFL players who donated their brains to science after they died, 87 of them had some form of CTE. Symptoms of this horrible disease include depression, aggression, and disorientation. So how bad really is CTE? Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before killing himself two years ago. Doctors believe that his behavior was a direct result of CTE which unfortunately can only be diagnosed after death. Not only Belcher but many other former NFL players who were diagnosed with CTE showed decades of cognitive decline before their death.
Obviously this has the potential to not only become a major problem in the NFL but also in society as a whole. The NFL is trying to take steps to make play safer. They have started conducting pregame medical assessments of players, along with on field and post game assessments. They also have reduced the number of kickoff returns which is the most high impact part of the game. Finally, they continue to implement rules to limit hits to the head.
My take is that NFL officials and executives can only do so much to protect the heads of players. At the end of the day, it’s still going to be a sport based on violence and aggression. I’m interested to see how parents with small children react to reports like this and if it will result in a decline of youth football. If I were a parent, I would obviously not want to put my growing son's brain in jeopardy of injury. With that said, technology and and science will continue to advance and come up with new ways to minimize risk of CTE and head injuries as a whole.