You won’t see posts on this blog very often about sports. Not really one of my interests. But I think this is an issue that needs to be widely known.
Yesterday, the country’s leading investigators of sports-related brain injuries released what could be their most shocking finding yet: Of the 79 deceased NFL players examined, 76 showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The researchers at the Boston University CTE Center have examined, in total, the brains of 128 people who played football at all levels—from high school to the pros—and 101 showed evidence of CTE. The numbers buttress a growing body of evidence that suggests that playing football at any level can lead to grave health consequences.
Any activity that leads to repeated head blows will compromise the long term cognitive health of the person engaging in that activity. (For that reason, boxing is especially dangerous.) Concussion symptoms are just the obvious signs, but even if a player never gets those acute signs, the effects of regular blows adds up over the years.
I fully get the cultural ties many of us have to these sports. I work at a university with a nationally rated football team who often aspires to be the national champions (and occasionally succeeds) and I’ve spent my time cheering them in the stands.
But we need to put into perspective the practice of watching entertainment that involves young men destroying their bodies. I’m not sure what the best thing American football can do to mitigate this problem, but until they do it, I would strongly advise that any parent be familiar with this before letting their kids play American football.